Recent police shootings locally and around the country prompted Pasadena community leaders, clergy and law enforcement officials to meet in an open forum to address the seemly rising violence throughout the country.
Shootings in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, Dallas and most recently Miami has intensified racial tensions throughout this country. Tensions that have instigated an inherent distrust between the black community and law enforcement come amid concern over worsening race relations in the United States.
“We have to engage each other in honest dialogue,” said Lucious Smith, Senior Pastor Friendship Baptist Church Pasadena. He urged the attendees to understand the frustration, anger because it’s not going away.
The two and half hour-long choreographed discussion dealt with police procedures, crime in the black community, tensions between civilians and those tasked with protecting them. A respectable sized mixed races crowd coalesced in the sanctuary including survivors, advocates, law-enforcement officers, and families who have much to gain and lose in the process.
They listen attentively as panelists Pasadena Police Chief Phil Sanchez, pastors Christopher Bourne and Kerwin Manning and Steven Travani, President Winning Our World for Christ Ministries provided explanations for misunderstandings about law enforcement. Each presented their thesis involving the church and prayer to rebuilding the family structure as a remedy to ease violence in the community.
Chief Sanchez offered law enforcement’s perspective spoke by explaining how his officers are trained to use their cognitive abilities. “Force might be an option but talking might be an option as well.” He also threw in a plug, his department is hiring.
He extolled his department as being one of most diverse in the nation while describing how policing requires officers to go into ambiguous situations, sometimes with little or no information about what to expect. Often what little information an officer has is one-sided or completely wrong.
Pastor Smith, who moderated, reminded those in attendance that community leaders have continuing conversations about how to improve relations throughout the city.
However not everyone was satisfied with the response of the panelists especially Chief Sanchez.
The Church music minister Andre Troutman, 26, took issue with Chief Sanchez doing the Q&A session.
“I want accountability for the actions of police officers who are involved in shootings.” He says he is concern about officers being acquitted of shootings that were caught on tape.
Dr. Lucien Cox, 66, agrees with the Chief Sanchez. “The problem we are having starts with the family. Fatherless males are the biggest issue.”
Jasmine Bryant, 25, Pasadena resident gave candidly testimony about “the disrespect Pasadena police displays towards young blacks.” She cited instances of being stopped by impolite cops. Afterwards she politely asked the chief for his advice.
He explained, be respectful, get the officer’s name badge number and take your complaint to the police station.
Steve Travani offered a somewhat simplistic solution by comparing the message in church to Las Vegas, “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas; what happens in church stays in the church.”
He adds, the church message must extend beyond the church walls. People have to see what it looks like to get along.
The even highlight occurred as Troutman was given an opportunity to explain the Black Lives Matter Movement.
His emotional rant drew praise from most as he stood less than 20 feet from a front row of Pasadena police officers.
“Black Lives Matters was created as an outcry from slaying of black people by police officers on video.”
As a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement he says they must continue their mission to reform a justice system that has failed families and black communities, even as many sympathizers worry the movement lost ground and standing through the violence aimed at police.
Pastor Smith hope this forum will encourage organizations in a dialogue meant to counter institutional racism, build relationships and prevent a similar tragedy from happening in Pasadena.
Even as residents in Pasadena discuss long-simmering relations between African Americans and police. Top Republicans like presidential nominee Donald Trump and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani were blaming President Obama, for not doing more to stop the violence against police.
During his closing, pastor Smith’s remarks bestowed a message to law enforcement officials, “ if we looked each other in the eye, try to understand where that person is coming from. You may never understand what it means to be a black man in America. We’re all apart of the human family.”