Building and strengthening relationships between the men who wear the uniforms that protect us and community members is a top priority at Erie City Hall.
Last April, the City of Erie worked with the Department of Justice to begin building better police and community partnership programs. Organizers say the program has seen early success.
Erie Mayor Joe Schember says, “When there is an issue, we now have a good place where there is a good, diverse group where we can talk it through and figure out the best solution.”
This was accomplished in a meeting where 80 participants found the following to keep key issues in Erie.
First is education/cultural awareness sensitivity. Second, racism and stereotypes. Third, making the Erie Police Department truly representative of the entire community. Fourth, building trust and approachability. And, fifth, handling family structure and parental control issues.
Schember says, “We need to involve everyone and get their opinions; get their points of view. None of us are perfect. We all can learn. The more we work together, the better off we’re going to be.”
Community Liaison Michael Outlaw saying that the issues are not going to go away overnight, but this is a step in the right direction.
“Talking about hundreds of years of mindsets, civil rights, and current issues. Even though they are not homegrown, we still have to make sure we are taking a proactive approach to keep Erie from being that city.”
Outlaw says that the program has helped to open a conversation.
“We’re not shying away from the tough conversation that makes people uncomfortable. We’re going to embrace those challenges.”
Programs that have been implemented are Coffee With a Cop, the Police Athletic Program, and the Community Partnership Programs.
Vanessa Belne is a community member who has joined the conversation and believes these measures are helping to grow Erie.
“You know, I’ve had my reservations based off my own experience with the law enforcement and my son’s situation. But, I’m really hopeful feel that it’s a great thing.”
Outlaw says that they are looking to create other outreach programs to strengthen the community even more.