WATCH: A Community Conversation on race, police perception and how to come together

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — CBS42 invited a distinguished list of city leaders, lawmakers, educators, police and activists who like many in our community, are frustrated by an increase in violence, eroding race relations and a constant fear that has seemingly gripped our nation.

Our goal in our special report was to have a frank and open discussion about the serious issues of race relations, the perceptions of police and how they interact within our communities, as well as the struggles of those officers who come face to face with danger daily, while having to make split second decisions to keep us all safe.

We also streamed the conversation live on our Facebook page. Viewers were encouraged to ask the panel questions on the live stream.

The dialogue comes with the shedding of blood and many tears for citizens and officers alike. Our community conversation first looked back, so we could then look forward.

For every action, there is a reaction. That reaction is not always when, what or where you think. Actions in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York, Charleston, St. Paul, Dallas and Baton Rouge have sparked protests across the county. Here in Birmingham the reaction is a movement, born out of the shooting deaths of African Americans at the hands of police, and the ambush deaths of police at the hands of cold blooded killers.

Not just these incidents, but mass shootings based on hate in Florida and South Carolina. All of it has been enough to bring many in this nation to their knees in prayer, and for most, it raises the question: how can we heal a great divide in the United States of America?

CBS42 Morning News Anchor Art Franklin began the conversation that we hope will lead to solutions to the issues dividing our community by asking Mayor William Bell:

“How do we have that tough conversation that honestly addresses the fact that there is a history of trust issues between many in the black community and police that we must get beyond?”

See his answer and the discussion that followed in the video above.

“I would say in my neighborhood it’s a good relationship. We have trust and respect for our law enforcement,” Paige Jordan said. “I believe it goes both ways. I feel safe in my neighborhood. I don’t know that that’s the case city wide and that makes me sad.”

According to the Department of Justice, traffic stops are the most common reason any of us have for contact with police. There are millions each year. Most end as they should, but not for Breaon King. She was pulled over in what should have been one of those routine stops. It escalated in just eight seconds. Watch the video of her violent arrest below, and the conversation that followed.

One local woman responded to the question: “Can anything be done to decrease violence in our communities?”

“You know, we can’t change the minds of people. You know it’s just one individual, what can we do?” asked Aaisha Muhammad. “There’s nothing we can do about a mind that thinks a certain way. And we don’t know what they are thinking so, I don’t think there’s anything we can do. We just continuously do what we do…do good and good will follow you, that’s the only thing I can tell you.”

What happened to Ms. King raised a lot of questions centering on training, sensitivity, excessive force. We asked Chief Roper, how does current training for law enforcement address racial sensitivity? Watch his answer in the video just above.

Next, we took some questions from our Facebook Live viewers. Watch the video below to see the questions asked, and the discussion they sparked.

April Finkley, a Birmingham mother and educator spoke the other week to us about the tough but necessary conversations black parents have with their children.

“He has to understand that there are things that may happen to you because of the color of your skin there are ways you may be perceived that are different from your friends.”

Watch the segment above that covers that topic, and more.

“The fact is there is exceptional policing going on every single day,” President Barack Obama said about the issues addressed in our conversation. “We’ve seen departments organize community forums and panels and cookouts to bring officers together with civil rights leaders and activists and young people. Many of you I’m sure saw the viral videos of police playing pick-up basketball with kids or dancing the “nae nae”– which wasn’t, you know, that was a brave officer who did that. There are a lot more examples though that don’t find their way on the Twitter feeds.”

Obama gave one example of police getting to know the community they serve. When Chief Roper and Art returned to his childhood neighborhood, people were blowing horns and stopping to chat with him. The same thing happened when they went with about 30 officers in east Birmingham, just walking the streeets. Roper answered Art’s question: What other ways are you using community policing to reduce crime and better the relationship between police and community?

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