Over the last few months, the Columbia NAACP has been leading a series of community engagement meetings on the topics of policing, equity, and civility. In between NAACP leaders have met with the police chief and City Manager for additional dialogue. This Tuesday, May 22, from 7 to 9 pm the NAACP will again be hosting a forum at Second Missionary Baptist Church (407 E. Broadway).
At Tuesday’s forum you will hear an update on community policing and on the implementation of recommendations from previous meetings. After the initial presentations, break out groups will discuss and make recommendations on specific community topics including mental health, racial profiling, minority jobs and entrepreneurship, and civility and accountability.
Join in, share your thoughts and help make Columbia a better place!
WHAT: Community Dialogue
WHEN: Tuesday May 22, 2018, 7 to 9 pm
WHERE: Second Missionary Baptist Church, 407 E. Broadway, Columbia, MO
Twenty-nine people, including two police officers, joined us at Battle on May 4, and you can review the notes of the discussion here. As with our prior dialogue, the National Issue Forum guide on Safety and Justice was used to spark conversation, and the dialogue was one of the ones reported for this year’s national “A Public Voice” initiative. Although there were divergent views on strategies and how to best proceed, some clear and common themes emerged throughout the discussion. These included the importance of building a sense of community; the need for mutual respect, empathy and compassion; and the importance of clear, ongoing education and dialogue. In the closing portion of the session one of the youth expressed appreciation for the officers sharing their perspective and stated next time he saw an officer in the coffee shop or at a gas station he was going to try saying hi. Several of the adults who were present expressed appreciation for the leadership showed by the youth in arranging for these dialogues. At the end of the evening two of the youth raised with one of the officers the possibility of a joint youth-officer training session on Youth Mental Health First Aid, using a curriculum supported by MU Extension. Winter break was identified as a time that might be possible. We are recording that idea here so it can be picked up and planned for next semester, and not lost over the summer!
Next dialogue online: April 24 from 5 to 6 pm. Link to join will be posted Monday on the Trib’s website.
We continued our dialogue on April 18, using the “Safety and Justice” dialogue guide created by the Kettering Foundation and National Issues Forum for this year’s “A Public Voice” effort. We were joined by a very thoughtful group of students from Battle High, who will be leading their own dialogue on May 4 from 4:30 to 7 pm. The public is welcome.
Several areas of agreement emerged from our inter-generational, economically and racially diverse group. The primary theme was that everyone wants to feel safe in their own neighborhood. With regard to the “working together” option in the dialogue guide, the key sentiment was that police and citizens need to first come together as fellow human-beings and get to know each other. Besides future dialogues, ideas for “coming together” included barbecues, sports, ride-a-longs, and mentoring opportunities. Another emphasis was the need to build bridges between poorer and wealthier neighborhoods.
To address inequities in the system, another option in the guide, the observation was made that in order to do that people need to first know what is going on and that means having citizens who are willing to ask the hard questions and knowing where to report. It also means having leaders who are willing to answer those questions as the Supreme Court is now trying to do with municipal court reform. We generated several ideas – including simply posting an 800 number for comments and concerns on courtroom doors — that might help in this effort. As with the prior on-line discussion, there was also support within the group for focusing police resources on serious and violent crime rather than minor drug or traffic offenses.
The third option, providing training in de-escalating violence to police and citizens, was supported by the group, which also wondered how to establish a community culture that rewards de-escalation. A final theme was mutual respect, both in the sharing of experiences and being willing to listen and accept another’s perspective on their own experience.
This dialogue will continue on-line on April 24th from 5 to 6 pm – the link for joining will be posted Monday on the Trib website. You can review the “Safety and Justice” dialogue guide or watch this video or simply join in.
Your voice matters! Join us on-line on April 24th from 5 to 6 pm or on May 4 at Battle High from 4:30 to 7 p.m.
This month you can join in both a local and national conversation on public safety beginning with our monthly Community Commons. We will use the recently released “Safety & Justice” guide produced for this year’s “A Public Voice” effort to focus our dialogue. A Public Voice is a collaboration between the Kettering Foundation and National Issues Forums to engage citizens from across the country in deliberative forums on a current issue. It occurs annually, and insights from the forums are presented to policymakers in Washington, D.C.
In addition to our monthly Community Commons on April 18 from 7 to 9 pm, there will be an on-line dialogue on April 24 from 5 to 6 pm, and another in person dialogue using the “World Cafe” format at Battle High School on May 4 from 4 to 7 pm. Details of how to join those will appear in the Trib and on this blog. After each forum you also will have an opportunity to send your thoughts to the Foundation through an on-line survey.
This last Monday we had a diverse, inter-generational group participate in an on-line pilot dialogue using the Common Ground platform. Of the 15 actions listed in the guide, the group initially gravitated towards community policing as their top option. As the discussion unfolded, however, although community policing remained in the top 5, this group identified 4 other options where ultimately there was an even stronger consensus to act. These were
- limiting the use of traffic stops and “stop and frisk” by police officers and review other practices where racial profiling might come into play;
- increasing investment in mental health programs;
- reducing rates of arrest for minor drug and other nonviolent crimes, and address disparities in sentencing for people of color; and
- requiring implicit bias training for police and court officers.
These actions align with the themes of Addressing Inequities and Building Bridges identified in our community dialogue guide “Are We An Us?”.
How do we build a stronger community with safety and justice for all? Join us in one of the upcoming dialogues and share your views.
Tuesday, April 18, 7-9 pm
Enter the Tribune Training Room on Walnut Street, between 5th and Providence.
Sponsored by The Columbia Daily Tribune.
You still have time to see “Street Stories – Glimpses of Homelessness“, which opened tonight and will be performed again tomorrow November 19 at 7 pm and Sunday November 1at 3 pm. This series of short plays interspersed with music, shares stories from our community and was written, produced, and is acted by community members to raise funds for Turning Point, a day shelter, and Room at the Inn, an overnight shelter run by area churches during the winter months. It’s also an effort to build bridges of empathy and compassion between the community and some of its most ignored and neglected members. Turn out for a good cause, and learn more about the struggles of those who are homeless and how you can help.
Street stories – Glimpses of Homelessness
Where: First Christian Church, 10th and Walnut, Downtown
When: Saturday November 19 at 7 pm and Sunday November 20 at 3 pm
Tickets available at the door, $10
Unequal opportunities and access to resources is another factor that strains community. More than 40% of our school age children qualify for free and reduced price lunch. Our school district is experimenting with different approaches to ensure that all children have the food they need to learn. Many of our children also lack access to regular health care, including needed mental health resources. In 2012 our county passed a tax to create a Children’s Services Fund, and recently launched a new Family Access Center to connect families to needed resources. But a recent study also showed Boone County to be one of the least likely counties to provide a path out of poverty. Much more can be done to reduce inequities in our community. What would you propose?