Study Circles program discusses police-community relations

By Gus Bode

In an effort to change misconceptions of police in the community, Carbondale Conversations for Community Action will start a new installment of the Study Circles in September dealing with police-community relations.

An outgrowth of the Human Relations Commission, the Study Circle program was implemented in 2004 in an effort to bring citizens together to collectively discuss issues facing the community in a controlled environment.

Study Circles coordinator Lana Bardo met with six other Study Circle participants Thursday afternoon in the Student Center to discuss the new study focused on creating a dialogue between the community and the police.

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The HRC was originally created in 2003 after an incident in the city where more than 80 black students were maced at a block party. The HRC was originally set up to make recommendations to the City Council in an effort to improve relations in the community.

Bardo, a member of the HRC, said she has received feedback from several people who have the misconception that the council was created specifically for the purpose of police-community relations. She said while that is one of the topics they planned to discuss, the purpose of the council is much more broad.

“Their job was not necessarily to deal with just the police-community relations,” Bardo said. “It was to deal with whole community relations.”

Bardo said Carbondale doesn’t necessarily have conflict between citizens and the police but said she thought the new study would strengthen the existing relationship.

“It may not be a problem, but it is something that we want to make better,” Bardo said. “It’s simply a community discussion.”

The Study Circle is set up for each of the participants to take part in five sessions, which will be available every day of the week. The first sessions will give the participants the opportunity to meet one another and get comfortable. In subsequent sessions, individuals will get the chance to convey their points of view about the subject before finally discussing solutions in the fifth session.

Unlike the rest of the participants in the discussion, Heather Brostrand was not involved in the last Study Circle. She said she found out about the Study Circle through reading newspapers and decided it would be a good way to get involved.

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“I thought, ‘This is something I want to get involved in community wise,'” Brostrand said. “I can complain and I can be unhappy, or I can come to something like this and be a productive part of the solution.”

Brostrand said she thinks the topic for the upcoming Study Circle is relevant because she thinks the police are often seen as enemies of the public rather than friends. She said she is often distressed rather than relieved when she sees a police car in her rearview mirror and that she thinks it is a perception she needs to change.

“There is absolutely no reason to feel that way,” Brostrand said. “They are there to protect and serve. Why in the world should I be afraid of them or dislike them?”

Bardo agreed with Brostrand about the bad perception of police in the community. She said the group needs to encourage police from nearby departments to participate in the circles.

One representative from the police who has already committed to the Study Circles is Todd Sigler, director of the SIUC Police Department. He said he is glad to have the opportunity to meet with community members to see what the perception is of the police and possibly change some misconceptions.

“I think it is good anytime you can have dialogue,” Sigler said. “So many things in society are sometimes the way they are, and people don’t stop to talk about what the other side is in charge of doing and why they do it.”

Reporter William Ford can be reached at

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