CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Over the last month of protests, we have heard plenty of calls for more dialog between police officers and the black community.
On Monday, that call was answered.
The Mount Zion AME Church hosted the “Can we talk” virtual forum to better understand where everyone is coming from. The Zoom call hosted three Charleston Police officers and about 30 community members, including city council member Robert Mitchell.
The candid community conversation was aimed at bringing people together and paving the way to build bridges.
Officer Fred Mallett said it all starts with casual conversations.
“Start a conversation, just so you build a rapport,” Mallett said. “That way you get to see us not just as an officer but as an individual that you can talk to.”
Mallet and officer Simone Douglas both shared their experiences not only as police officers, but black police officers working during difficult times.
“During the protests and the riot, every white person, black person, Hispanic, all of them yelled at me. They were all upset with me,” Douglas said, describing how she felt animosity from all sides. “They called me every name in the book. They told me I was a disgrace. They told me my grandma would roll in her grave.”
Officer-involved shootings around the country have put a spotlight on a bigger conversation about race and policing. One of the participants asked how officers talk to each other about officer-involved shootings around the country.
“I think a lot of people think Caucasian police officers don’t care, but they do,” Douglas said.
Mallet says he has those conversations with a lot of his white coworkers.
“There is a Caucasian male that’s on my squad. We ride together a lot. We have a lot of those conversations, talking about different events, different things that have happened,” Mallett said. “He sees a lot of the things that are going on that he doesn’t agree with, that he doesn’t stand for.”
Several people asked about tangible evidence of addressing bias. Lt. Shylah Murray said there is a racial bias training every year.
“Racial bias training once a year is not enough,” said Rev. Kylon Middleton with Mount Zion AME Church. “When we look at racial discrimination, when we look at bias sometimes people don’t know consciously that they are doing it. What if you were absent that day? You’d be like Rose on the Golden Girls and miss everything.”
Murray says much of their community outreach program revolves around in person events and programs which have been significantly reduced because of the coronavirus.