National Movement for Civil and Human Rights Holds 2nd Meeting
on Community and Law Enforcement Relations
Ellison Bennett, a board member of The National Movement for Civil and Human Rights, served as the convening host for a community meeting at the Englewood Missionary Baptist Church on July 14th focused on the relationship between the community and law enforcement. This meeting was called as a follow-up to a previous meeting held on the same subject at the New Jerusalem Tabernacle of God where Rev. Hugh King serves as the Pastor. Ellison Bennett stated that an anticipated outcome would be to establish an ongoing dialogue with law enforcement to address concerns voiced by the citizens of City of Pensacola and Escambia County.
Local law enforcement was represented solely by Chief David Alexander of the City of Pensacola Police Department as Sheriff Morgan refused to attend the meeting or send a representative. Bennett asserted that, “I cannot understand how the sheriff can attend a meeting at noon at New World Landing and not attend a community meeting at Englewood Baptist Church discussing the same subject just a few blocks from the Escambia County Sheriff Department!” Bennett added, “We, as a community, need to understand that the sheriff is an elected official and should respond to a request for a community meeting”.
A panel of local civil rights organizations were seated along with Chief Alexander and Englewood Pastor Rev. Larry Watson, Sr. serving as the Moderator of the Equal Rights District Association. Local civil rights groups were represented by SCLC President, Rev. James Watson; Minister Taurus X, of Muhammed Mosque # 98; Keyontay Humphries, Regional Organizer of the local ACLU; Jerry McIntosh, Spokesperson for Movement for Change; and Tony McCray, Jr., NAACP Pensacola Branch Economic Development Chair.
Rev. King facilitated the dialogue. The first speaker was Captain Alexander who spoke on the importance of community oriented policing in building stronger relationships between law enforcement and the neighborhoods they serve. Alexander, who has been an advocate for community policing during his career with the City of Pensacola Police Department, stated that when community policing was introduced ten years ago there was a disconnect with the neighborhood residents that did not realize that they were being recruited to have more decision-making power in fighting crime in their own areas.
Keyontay Humphries, of the ACLU, stated that the Pensacola Police Department worked with the ACLU on the development of the body camera policy and the adoption of the Civil Citation program as an alternative to youth being arrested! She stated, “We are seeing community policing and community relations strengthening in the city police department.” Candace Muhammed, also of Muhammed Mosque # 98, stated that the community should be engaged in more inter-faith collaboration, a community-based education system, and more love shown to our youth that, “we are prepared to stand up for them.” Doug Baldwin, an announced candidate for sheriff stated that we need elected officials that will represent all of the residents in all of our communities.
There were many other speakers during the two hour event that led to a consensus among the remaining attendees to submit their input, ideas and strategies to Bennett within ten days to develop a community action plan. The next meeting will be announced to the public upon the availability of guest speaker, Cedric Alexander, the immediate, past President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.