When members of the local African American Pastors Alliance met with The Republic’s editorial board last week, they stressed that solutions to issues of trust and fear between black citizens and white police officers nationwide will be achieved only when all parties work together.
Local law enforcement, the pastors alliance and other community leaders demonstrated what that joint effort can look like Friday with a service at Columbus City Hall.
Chaplains from the Columbus Police Department and Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department offered prayers. Columbus Human Rights Commissioner Ian Kohen and Mayor Jim Lienhoop spoke. The Revs. Mike Harris and David Bosley, members of the African American Pastors Alliance, spoke and offered words of comfort.
“Let them know that you love them,” Bosley, pastor of Dayspring Church of God Apostolic, said of a way to thank members of law enforcement.
Bosley also spoke of the importance of unity during tough and trying times.
“A people united can never be defeated,” he said.
Such a coming together was important in the wake of recent fatal shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the fatal shooting of five Dallas police officers during a rally to protest those shootings.
The local gathering was even more important considering a shooting event two days later in Louisiana in which three police officers died. Even though the shootings happened elsewhere, the ripple effect of concern and emotions is felt in Bartholomew County.
The pastors expressed concern because of the shootings and past incidents across the nation where officers had shot and killed innocent people and not been punished.
However, the pastors also said proactive solutions involving police, black residents and local leaders are what’s best and needed most to head off any potential problems locally.
For example, the pastors alliance has expressed a desire to begin regular meetings with the first-year mayor to maintain an ongoing dialogue and discuss issues.
Last year, a two-day dialogue on race relations involved local police exposing members of the pastors alliance and other residents to video simulations of situations they encounter on the job and the split-second decisions they must make about using lethal force. That helped promote a greater understanding of the challenges police face.
Columbus Police Department also offered support for the fallen officers in Dallas as Lt. Matt Harris and officer Eric Kapczynski attended the funerals of two of the deceased.
The department also plans to send officers to Baton Rouge to honor the fallen officers there.
Local efforts to reflect on the recent tragedies, offer comfort, understand the issues and make progress on race relations are commendable and vitally important. The hope is that similar efforts are made in other communities across the country.