By: Jasmine Saunders, Editor-in-Chief
Delaware State University hosted a town hall Sept. 27 in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies, legislators, and First State Community Action Agency, Inc. to create an open line of communication between law enforcement agencies and the community after the recent killings of people of color in the country.
Panelists at the town hall included Delaware State Police Superintendent Col. Nathaniel McQueen; Dover Police Department Chief Paul Bernat; Delaware State University Chief Harry Downes, Jr.; District 17 State Sen. Brian J. Bushwell; District 34 Rep. Lyndon Yearick; Andrew Donnelly, a liaison from Gov. Jack Markell’s office; Dover Mayor robin Christiansen; Rev. Rita Mishoe Paige, of Star Hill AME Church; and Bernice Edwards from First State Community Action Agency, Inc.
The audience asked questions to the panel about numerous issues that surround their communities that pertain to the effects of legislation and law enforcement such as recreation areas that have been closed down leaving the youth with no outlet, afterschool activities, training procedures, and the mental health evaluations of police officers.
The town hall became tense after a question was asked regarding the accountability of an officer who lies about the actions of another officer.
“If an officer is untruthful and is proven to be untruthful, then he’ll be fired,” said Chief Bernat.
Church leaders believe they need to provide more holistic ministry to address the other sources of the community and police conflicts.
“We have to think beyond the benediction of Sunday morning,” said Pastor Mishoe Paige. “We have to meet people’s needs. We need to be the ones offering GED programs, tutoring programs and mentoring programs.”
For Pastor Jim Dorton, of Three Stones Church, he believes the church needs to be a place where people can come together and get to know one another as human beings despite the many forces that seek to divide people.
“We tend to look at the differences that separate us,” he said.
The town hall left some people unhappy about the effectiveness of the discussion, pointing to the lack of representatives from local police departments.
“There needs to be more town hall meetings with actual local police, not the heads [of the departments] because they’re not actually on the streets,” said student Tamara McAfee.
Some thought that this could be a formulation of a relationship between the community and law enforcement.
“I think it’s a good to start a dialogue,” said Monica Hall, the associate director of Policy and Compliance at DSU. “A conversation is what we can do to bring the community together because it seems like we don’t come together until after something horrific happens.”
(Photo: Jasmine Saunders)