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Midmorning With Aundrea - 06/07/2020 (Part 1)

Video Credit: WCBI - Published
Midmorning With Aundrea - 06/07/2020 (Part 1)

Midmorning With Aundrea - 06/07/2020 (Part 1)

In a special edition of Midmorning With Aundrea, we talk with local law enforcement and local lawmakers about racial issues and how we can do better together.

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Health care of atlant aundrea self: hello everyone, and welcome to a special edition of mid-morning.

Let me first begin by saying thank you to the folks here at starkville community theater for allowing us inside the building, and in this theater to have a very important conversation that we're going to do over the next couple of days.

We're going to be talking about race, how we see each other, how we treat each other, and how we can do better together.

Now, we have got some familiar faces from our community that many of you will know who will begin this first half hour of discussion for today.

We'll have a different group with us tomorrow.

But, let me tell you who's joing us today.

We have two lawmakers, and we have two law enforcement officers.

We are pleased to have with us state representative kabir karriem, representing district 41.

From district 38, representative cheikh taylor is here with us.

Also, columbus police chief, fred shelton is joining us.

And starkville assistant police chief, henry stewart.

Gentlemen, thank you all so much for being here.

We appreciate it.

Panel: thank you for having us.

Aundrea self: well, let's begin with how we got here.

And, it's the george floyd video, is what has brought us to this moment.

I don't really think it's necessary for us to rehash what happened, i think everyone has come to the conclusion, to the realization, it was a horrific thing that we saw play out on camera.

That has brought us to this moment to have a conversation about police, their relationships with communities, and then a broader discussion about racism in america.

So, i want to start with our two law enforcement officers.

Gentlemen, if you can talk to us about what it is like being in law enforcement at a moment like this, when communities in many areas of our country, not necessarily here for us, but in some places they're at odds.

Chief shelton.

Chief fred shelton: first, we have to start with trust.

And again, what has to happen is, we have to service the people that we protect.

And again, when a relationship is broken and there are some things that go awry, we have to come to the table and talk about it.

So, one of the things that i think we... at this point, we should train the police officers better to communicate with the public, do some de-escalation techniques, as well as train the public on what they need to do and how they need to respond.

So, one of the things that the public can help us with, is the three cs.

Being courteous, compliant and cooperative with us.

Talk with us, let's communicate.

Again, because... i quote martin luther king, he said that a riot is the voice of unheard people.

So let's have that dialogue.

A real dialogue about, what's going on, how we can better serve you and how you need to respond when we do serve you.

Aundrea self: assistant chief stewart, have you found it more difficult to walk around and... you grew up in this community, correct?

Henry stewart: no, ma'am.

Aundrea self: you did not grow up in, starkville?

But you've been here for many years?

Henry stewart: yes, ma'am.

Aundrea self: so, people here know you.

Henry stewart: yes, ma'am.

Aundrea self: and they trust you.

But, have you felt any tension, yourself, from the community?

Henry stewart: i haven't experienced any tension myself.

But, as you walk around as a police officer, you have to have a open mind and a open ear on what's going on.

And you see... sometimes, you see people looking at you in a different angle or different directions, i kind of notice that.

But, i look at it like this, we are blesshave a great police force and a star police department, myself and chief , has a great bunch of diligent professional officers.

But one of the things that we want to make sure we do, continue to provide a credible service to the community.

No matter what the situation is, we got to continue to protect the citizens of starkville.

And we got to do it in the highest degree of accountability, and a degree of professionalism.

Aundrea self: mm-hmm .

Henry stewart: and then, we have to be transparent.

And trust, just like chief shelton says, it's one of the most important words that you can be a relationship with the community.

The trust and transparency the relationship with our community, i think we have done that.

I believe that the citizens of starkville loves starkville police department.

They showed us this through all the kindness acts during covid-19.

Aundrea self: mm-hmm .

Henry stewart: i mean, it was just so appreciative.

So, i think when all said and done, as long as we are providing incredible services to our community, protecting and service our community, no matter what the situation.

Because, we going to go through hard times, but as we continue to focus on the task at hand and do our jobs, we are definitely a better community.

Aundrea self: chief- henry stewart: and we will strive to do that.

Chief fred shelton: , if i could just in.

Aundrea self: sure.

Chief fred shelton: when we talk about trust, trust is something that has to be built again.

That don't mean we're going to get it right every time.

Aundrea self: mm-hmm .

Chief fred shelton: there are going to be some differences or some .

But trust me that, we can have that conversation, knowing that we can both express ourselves in a decent manner and resolve our issue.

Because trust, like i said, it has to be built and has to grow, but that doesn't mean that it's going to be a... it's always going to be perfect.

That means that we're going to have some challenges, but because i trust you to do... to be the person that you are, then we can have that honest conversation and then we can make some things happen.

Aundrea self: you've mentioned, chief... you mentioned the word, de- escalating situations.

And i think when the videos that we have seen, not just the george floyd video, but many that we've seen over the years, it seems that there comes a point in those scenarios when people feel like the officers may have done a... could have done a better job of de- escalating the situation, and perhaps that they had some hand in escalating the situation.

So, what kind of training goes on to make sure that does not happen.

Chief fred shelton: so- aundrea self: because, you will... you are going to run into some people who are going to be resistant or they're going to be what someone might consider as not respectful toward an officer.

So, what is the officer's job at that point?

Chief fred shelton: so, there's a technique called, verbal judo.

Aundrea self: mm-hmm .

Chief fred shelton: which means, and it's part of de- escalation, is how we talk to people.

So initially if i pull you over, i should walk up to you and say, "goo morning, ma'am."

Greet you.

"m name is fred shelton, i'm with the columbus police .

The reason i'm stopping you is because... and do you have any legal justification for your action?"

S we start the conversation .

Not just, give me your driver's license.

What's your name?

Again, it's how you talk to people.

So the old adage is, you get more with sugar than you would get with salt.

So again, some of that... and we are trained professionals.

We're trained on how to handle the situation.

Every situation is not a situation where we need to be confrontational.

But however, when it's time to be confrontation, we have to be confrontational.

And especially if it's a violent crime or someone that's committed a crime on our presence, yes, i'm going to have to do, but you have to realize that we use the minimum amount of force necessary to contain the situation.

And again, we're taught how to do this.

Is... aundrea self: mm-hmm .

I want to bring our two representatives into the conversation at this point, because i told you all before we went on, if you didn't mind sharing some of your personal experiences.

I mean, the two of you were civilians before you were officers.

So, did you ever have or any of you ever had a situation where you felt that you were sort of, the officer was here and you were here.

I'll begin with you, representative kabir karreim.

Rep.

Kabir karreim: i mean, i've had a few interactions with law enforcement as a young man, even as a... in my former life, as a city councilman.

I was stopped by a officer and then i was pulled over.

And i was a city councilman, that officer didn't recognize me.

I had on my work clothes and i asked him, "why di he pull me over?"

He said, i was at a stop sign too long.

And when he realized who i was, of course the incident went on, but what if i wasn't a city councilman?

How could that have escalate?

So, i don't think i've... know of any of an african american that has not experienced some type of encounter at some level with law enforcement.

Aundrea self: you agree with that, representative taylor?

Rep cheikh taylor: wholeheartedly.

And in fact, my incident that i'll share actually happened less than six months ago with my wife and i, leaving a birthday party with my son coming from cotton district.

My wife is driving, she rose past the stop sign just a little bit.

Very young officer gets behind us, pulls us over, shines a light on my wife's side, wants to interrogate, and asks her to get out of the car.

And, i'm thinking, here it is.

We're both in our forties, very mature, well- spoken, educated.

Whatever title and status you think you may have, you don't have that on the side of the road when dealing with law enforcement.

And the truth of the matter is, i was afraid that if my wife left the vehicle, that she may be detained, she may be injured.

And as a husband, you feel a little powerless, but you want to act.

And i said, "right o wrong, no, she won't be leaving the vehicle."

A soon as a superior officer got there and handled the situation, he dismissed it.

Aundrea self: mm-hmm .

Rep cheikh taylor: it was an issue of a young officer being a little over- aggressive and seeming to use tactics that i've seen in the past, to make sure you leave the vehicle so it could escalate.

And it was very unfortunate, but this is something that many african americans feel on a day to day basis.

And that's why you see some people actually freaking out when they're pulled over, so... aundrea self: all right.

So then, it goes back, to me, to relationships that we've talked about a little bit.

We... having worked as a journalist for many years in this business, i have had the occasion to attend national night out on crime events, which that is an event that is specifically designed to help improve relationships.

There have been times when the police departments have had substations in neighborhoods, which again, is an attempt to bridge that divide.

So, how are those helpful?

I will address that to you, chief henry stewart.

Henry stewart: yes, ma'am.

We've been doing community oriented policing for a long time.

And with community oriented policing, is three things you look at.

Community partnership, community relations and change management.

So, you want to build a relationship with the community.

We have a substation over here on alfred perkins street, and we had several ones down, street.

So, community oriented police should be the face of your police department.

Because, you want the community to see your officer out in the public talking to citizens, being... helping citizen to gain the trust, the officer, and be able to give them the information to help deter crime.

And it's been a positive thing for us.

And we have a community oriented vision.

We have two certified dial officers that goes to the schools and... you talk about our national night out on crime, the largest one we had last year.

So, it's great to have a community oriented police and division.

We have that and we will continue to do that.

But, let me talk about a de- escalation.

Aundrea self: mm-hmm .

Henry stewart: one of the things as a national accredited police department is that, we tell officers that, hey, announce yourself and tell people why you stopped them.

And also, less is best.

Don't interject yourself in a conversation with somebody that's... want to talk about an argument.

Just, less is best.

Do your job and don't waste people time.

If you're going to cite that person, cite that person and give them the information for .

So, our terminology is, we don't want to be a part of the problem, but we want to be a part of the solution.

And that's the same way when we go to calls.

You can go to a call and be argumentative, and you can escalate that whole situation.

Henry stewart: but if you go to a call with the attitude of de- escalation, you can have that call a lot better.

So, that's some of the things that we teach.

Less is best, and always don't go to a call and be a part of the problem, but be a part of the solution.

Because a lot of times you can just go there and talk and you don't even have to arrest people.

And i have done that in my law enforcement career in the past.

Just go in there and feel what people are going to and separate people and have good conversations.

And then, i can assist them in solving the problem, and leave there and say everything is all right, you don't have to arrest nobody, so... rep.

Kabir karreim: if i may.

Aundrea self: sure.

Rep.

Kabir karreim: if i could interject.

One thing that i was happy because of prior experiences.

When i got in the legislature, one of the things that i helped coauthor, was a bill to teach our children how to engage with law enforcement.

Aundrea self: mm-hmm .

Rep.

Kabir karreim: that law passed and also teaching them their constitutional rights.

Whereas some communities might not have the relationships in their community, but if you teach a child how to engage with law enforcement, that could save someone's life, on both ends.

Aundrea self: absolutely.

Rep.

Kabir karreim: and i thought that that piece of legislation was incredible and i was happy to coauthor.

Chief fred shelton: .

Aundrea self: yes, sir.

Chief fred shelton: .

Going back to community policing, and i just want to make an analogy of two different situations.

And of course, when he was councilman, we had a community police unit, and we... that's when we used to walk the neighborhood.

But one of the things is, you have to have that community policing day or so, when something happened, you already have with it.

And to make an analogy, is that, when we had ricky ball's case, we had cameras but we didn't use them.

We had another shooting at the premier lounge, we had cameras, it's a whole lot of difference.

Aundrea self: mm-hmm .

Chief fred shelton: so, the other thing is, that we're talking about, is one of the tools that we use to evaluate whether we're giving the citizens the proper service is that, we have our body cameras and the supervisors audit the officer's camera once a week, he'd go and look.

And that way, if there's a problem, and it's worked very well for us, if there's a problem, i can go and look at how that officer is responding to the public.

Aundrea self: well, i will ask you, what assurance does the public have that the officers are actually using the cameras?

Chief fred shelton: and people talk about that.

So, here's what... because we have a very strict policy.

The policy is, if you do not have your activated body camera, the first offense, 10 days without pay.

Aundrea self: mm-hmm .

Chief fred shelton: second offense is, 30 days without pay.

And then the third offense, is possible termination.

So, since i've been in this office, i haven't had to suspend anybody for not turning on their body cameras.

And so... and as you say, we're at a town hall meeting and people discussing, well, what about if our cameras fail, the battery go down?

And... so, what is wrong with your assistant taking their cell phone and recording?

Or... then someone brought up the question, "well can i make sure the officer have his camera on if i have this conversation with him?

And, certainly.

Because again- aundrea self: i think that's a fair request to make.

Chief fred shelton: just a fair request.

"so officer, are you recording?

Is your body camera on?"

"yes."

And if yo camera is not on, "officer, i'm no talking to you until you turn... till you do so."

Aundrea self: well on the flip side of that, is it okay for me... as a citizen, when you... because i know parents and i will tell you this, who have sons, particularly black sons, they tell them if you get stopped by an officer, take your phone out and record.

Chief fred shelton: right.

Aundrea self: is that fair for them to do?

Is it okay for them?

Chief fred shelton: that's legal.

It's partially legal, and it happens in our community.

Say, "hey chief, got you on live."

Say, "okay, i go you on live as well."

Aundrea self: okay.

Chief fred shelton: so, we're dialoguing.

And so, i know... chief, if you know back in the old days, we didn't have these monitors.

But, it's like when i had this camera on, i'm just different a person, because i know that i've got to make sure that i'm giving the best customer service i can.

Aundrea self: well... and it goes back to what you said with accountability.

Representative taylor, you wanted to say.

Rep cheikh taylor: yeah.

Jump in the conversation, because i want to make sure that the onus is not completely on the citizen.

Our officers in law enforcement go through hundreds of hours of training.

Chief fred shelton: that's right.

Rep cheikh taylor: and are able to be certified, able to be taught different tactics to de-escalate.

But that person on the side of the road has no traing at all.

And... but yet is expected to all.

And... but yet is expected to behave in a certain type of manner.

We have a policing problem in united states.

If i could just get back to a few of the stats.

If you- aundrea self: can i get you to do this for me?

Rep cheikh taylor: sure.

Aundrea self: get the stats together, we're going to take a break.

Rep cheikh taylor: sure.

Aundrea self: and... because you said something that i found was compelling at the march in starkville a week ago.

You said that it's great for us to protest, it's great for us to rally, but the protest has to turn into policy.

Rep cheikh taylor: that's right.

Aundrea self: so, we're going to turn to the policy discussion and your stats when we come back.

Stay with us everyone, you're watching a special edition of mid-morning all right.

Aundrea self: welcome




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