NORMAN, Okla. – An important discussion on issues facing citizens of this city was coordinated by Xenia Institute for Social Justice and held this past Monday.
Four speakers were present including Norman Mayor Lynne Miller, the mayor of Norman, Norman Police Chief Keith Humphrey, the University of Oklahoma’s Special Assistant to the Vice President D’Andrew Fisher and Kathy A. Fahl, the director for OU’s Gender and Equality Center.
Miller said the event has been organized to respond to citizens’ questions on violence and discrimination perpetrated against African-Americans and other minorities, including the recent incident in Tulsa where a police officer shot and killed a stranded motorist.
“We have a recent peak in the last couple of years of police shooting individuals, many times not armed,” Miller said, adding that the city has always worked towards being an inclusive and peaceful community to call home.
“There is not one city in the nation that is exempt from something that we have seen occurred,” said Humphrey, adding the dialogue is necessary to resolve these important issues that affect the relationship between police and minorities.
Fahl said the mistrust of police department by minorities including those in the LGBTQ community, creates a constant fear of police officers. Fisher shared the same feeling citing his own experiences.
“This is not just an isolated event, this is not just something you see on TV, this is something that is going right when you leave these doors when you drive down Lindsey, this is something that is going on here and we have to dialogue,” Fisher said.
SCHOOL-PRISON PIPELINE ISSUE
Humphrey said School Resource Officer Program (SRO), implemented in August, will help to prevent the school-prison pipeline, especially for minorities. He added the program is not here to put police in school for disciplinary purpose out of concern for safety.
“Police officers are not here to put kids in jail. I think our program will be used properly,” Humphrey said.
Miller added the SRO program will protect schoolchildren against intruders and themselves saying, “The disciplinary part is still reserved for the administrators and teachers.”
According to Humphrey, since the implementation of the program police officers have taken down five young adults in protective custody to recovery.
Humphrey though it is important that police officers go talk to people and not just stay in their cars.
“My police officers love contact with people,” the police chief noted.
Humphrey added that more than 16,000 hours of community policing have been realized in Norman since 2014.
Additionally, he said his officers go to areas where they are known by citizens and areas where they are not as familiar, but overall community relations are “getting better.”
Besides community policing the police of Norman is proposing a Crime Free Multi-Housing Program to provide training for people living in complex apartments to reduce criminal activity.
Humphrey said three complex apartments on a total of 170 in Norman have completed the program for now.
“You think it is not good, but it is good,” he told the audience. “You have to understand that the program is very difficult and long.” A positive result, he added, is a 15 percent drop in criminal activity at the complex.
MINORITIES AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Chief Police Humphrey said police officers received a training that provides enough information through specialized person in human right and minorities to be able to manage any kind of situation.
“We recognize that we have to continue to increase our training in different areas to meet the need of all people of this community,” Humphrey said, adding Norman has one of the best hiring test in Oklahoma, which is comprised of 11 steps process.
He also recognized that the Norman Police Department (NPD) can sometimes have issues with some police officers.
Humphrey also encouraged minorities’ people to report any issues encountered with a police officer directly to the NPD saying, “Every complaint that comes to our department is investigated.”
Humphrey said a survey will be conducted at the NPD in collaboration with the University of Oklahoma to study what are the problems encountered and how it can be improved.
Humphrey also said Norman Police Department organized several events through the year to facilitate the communication with the community.
“In Norman 2016, race is not an easy thing to talk about it,” Humphrey said. “But I think we are doing a pretty good job. We are getting there.”
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