Community hosts discussion about local policing

Community hosts discussion about local policing

By Anna Spoerre, @ASpoerre_DE

More communication is needed between police officers and citizens, said Carbondale Police Department Lt. Matt Dunning.

Community members met Monday at the Civic Center for a policing forum. The event, organized by the Carbondale Human Relations Commission, allowed attendees to discuss topics relating to community policing, such as advocacy services, youth outreach and homelessness.

One topic brought up throughout the night pertained to the community’s relationship with the police department.

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JK Brandon, a junior from Buffalo Grove studying psychology, helped organize the event as the commission’s student liaison.

“This is a great opportunity for police officers to demonstrate they’re just as much a part of the community as every other individual,” Brandon said.

Faith Miller, a commission member and director of the dental program at SIUC, said police confrontation is expected by many people because of preconceived notions.

It is important for officers to shed their robotic persona, Dunning said.

All complaints — from a lack of professionalism to foul language — are investigated he said.

Stan Reno, deputy chief of operations, said police must often balance exercising their learned skills as officers with being friendly and approachable.

“Policing is an evolving process,” Reno said. “Having an open dialogue with the community is very important.”

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Dunning said he is always prepared for anything, and remains so until he feels in control of a situation.

“Your behavior dictates our behavior,” Sgt. Corey Kemp of the Carbondale Police Department said of how citizens approach police.

A few community members expressed concern that police give more negative attention to citizens of color.

However, Dunning said police do not pull people over without reason and random checks don’t exist.

All traffic stops have audio and video recorded, which he said makes anything impossible to hide.

Dunning said any uses of force by police get documented and reviewed. He helps with this process, and said any improper conduct found does not go unnoticed. Repercussions for officers who used improper conduct can be anything from additional training to termination, he said.

“It was a positive conversation,” said Aaron Smith, a freshman from Chicago studying international affairs.

Smith said Carbondale police are more personal and engaging than those in Chicago. However, he said Carbondale police can improve on community outreach by better considering the feelings and attitudes that vary from person to person. He also said police should remember they often create fear in communities and recommended they open up and act more human.

Another community policing forum is scheduled on campus in the spring, where the Human Relations Commission can get more than a small handful of students involved.

Brandon also plans to invite campus police so there can be more emphasis on students.

Joseph Brown, HMC Commissioner and Africana Studies professor at SIU, said he thought the event was a very positive experience.

“We need to change the conversation of ‘us versus them,’ and we are responsible for carrying that out,” Brown said.

Anna Spoerre can be reached at [email protected] or @ASpoerre_DE

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