Improving Decatur Community Relations

 Decatur- The organization Caring Black Men is working with police to improve community relations. On Monday the group held its second public forum titled "A Conversation on Community Perception."

At the forum questions were asked and all were answered by a panel of six community leaders. All of their answers were honest and heartfelt.

"There's a lot of good people in this community that want to work with law enforcement to make this city a better place," said Decatur's Police Chief Brad Sweeny.

All could see the concern through those who showed up. However, because of the amount of empty seats than at the forum in October, that exemplified Decatur still has a long way to go to get the community on board with change.

"If you want to be more active in the community, you have to know what the young community likes," said Jami Perkins, the daughter of the founder of Caring Black Men.

Perkins added, one way people at the forum could get more active with people in the community is to get familiar with the web.

"Young kids, they're into social media. I'm 25 and I'm into social media," Perkins said.

For the crowd that came, topics up for discussion consisted of African Americans not showing up to the voting booth, if riots that happened in Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD could happen in Decatur and diversity in leadership roles.

"Diversity in the police department is one of my greatest challenges. I inherited a force with five African American officers. We're testing right now, however we've only had a couple show up to apply and test to be a police officer," Police Chief Sweeny added.

Police Chief  Sweeney said, the department needs to look at increasing recruiting efforts so more minorities apply so he can hire them.

For Floyd Wheeler, he looks deeper than the color of skin.

"There's whites that love blacks and blacks that love whites somewhere in this town and in this country and they're best friends and some treat each other better than they treat their own family," Wheeler said. "I just love everybody myself and as I speak about love it makes me cry because I know that love is the key."

Monday's forum was a way to get out multiple messages. It is up to the individual to take in what they should and apply it to their lives and share it with others.

The Police Chief also thought of ways to get more community people involved. He said, Caring Black Men should have another forum at Millikin University, Central Park or even going to the inner city.
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