Springfield Police Hold Public Discussion with Minority Youth

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Protests surrounding the death of Michael Brown continue in Ferguson, Missouri.  Now, supporters of Brown are waiting for a jury to decide if the officer should face criminal charges.  The case has many talking about police brutality.  Even in Springfield, where Springfield Police and the community came together for an intimate conversation, Saturday morning.

"This event is an outreach event to sort of bridge the gap between the Springfield Police Department and young African-American males," said Lt. Bob Markovic.

This is a foreign experience for Springfield resident, Willie Gregory.  He says he's never had this type of interaction with the police.

"Young black men are more so, I mean, down right scared of police in every encounter that we have with them,” said Gregory.  Whether it's simply driving down the street and one of them driving behind us, or whether it's we're walking up into McDonald's or Burger King and one is in there.

Gregory says a lot of this fear is generated by stories of police brutality in the media.  Like the case of Michael Brown, the unarmed teen shot and killed by Missouri Police.  Brown's death is the inspiration behind Saturday morning's conversation.

"The reason we have issues, the reason why we have disagreements is because we don't know each other, said community organizer, Michael Phelon.  “We never sit down.  We never have conversations."

Lt. Markovic says one common misconception is that Springfield police target individuals based on personal prejudice.

"We are a response-oriented service, so we respond to calls for service.  So when we stop somebody, usually it's because somebody called in a complaint of some sort."

Phelon says another misconception is that black men are quick to get angry.

"That's why we're having these types of events,” said Phelon.  “To let the officers know that we as young black men, you know, there is nothing to fear about us."

Both sides say the conversation helped them gain a new understanding.

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