In our first article of the series Talks with the Rev, we discussed Police Targeting 101 with Reverend Dr. Wendell Anthony, president of the NAACP Detroit branch. In that article, he spoke about the many reasons people of color are targeted by police, and gave some alarming statistics on how many Black and brown people were stopped by police over the years, many of whom were actually innocent. In his second article below, we talk to Rev. Anthony about the relationship between the local police force, the police chief and the Black community.
How would you describe the relationship between the local police force and the Black community?
I think we in the city of Detroit have taken strides to develop a significant relationship between law enforcement and members of the community. I always say you make friends before you need them. This is the mantra by which I have tried to operate with regards to police and community relations. The fact that we have a diverse police department comprised of African Americans, Latino’s, and members of the Arab American community is significant. We hold regular forums before crises occurs within the community. There is a willingness on the part of the department to come into the community, and to be open about investigations and issues that occur, that we all know can lead to conflict.
I do believe that one of the reasons that Detroit has not exploded, as has been the case in Ferguson or Baltimore, is due to the fact of the regular ongoing communication and cooperation between activists, faith-based organizations, and community residents. This is not to say that there will never be an occasion where there might not be a flare up. However, it is good to know that community policing, openness to the community, showing up at the homes of victims of crime, and touching people, as opposed to simply avoiding people, can prove to benefit all parties involved in the quest for justice.
What would you say to the police chief about how his officers interact with the community?
It is important that the chief of police lead by example. I am glad our chief is in the community and is visible, and can be seen walking, talking, and working with the community at large. There are many police officers doing an outstanding job as it relates to not only protecting the community, but by working with the citizens throughout the community. They should not get a bad rap because of a few bad apples. Those apples should be shaken off and exposed because they can spoil a healthy tree of good fruit, which can be enjoyed by all who benefit from the substance of its feeding their life, and not causing the death of those in this community.