The African American Pastors Alliance has played an important role in helping to build relationships between local residents and law enforcement through education and public discussion at its ongoing “Improving Police and Community Relations” series.

With the help of the Indiana State Police, Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department and Columbus Police Department, the latest community discussion Feb. 4 focused on the use of force.

The idea was to educate residents about the challenges police face on the job, particularly when coming into situations in which they may have to use lethal force. Those can be difficult situations in which police have to make critical decisions in a split second, sometimes in chaotic settings where processing all available information is a challenge.

Some attendees participated in simulated situations that required them to determine if lethal force was appropriate. They experienced different scenarios that required them to quickly determine whether they should draw their gun and fire at a suspect. The results were eye-opening as some fired when use of force was not appropriate, which they would only learn afterward. The ensuing discussions about the results of the scenarios also revealed how non-lethal force responses sometimes aren’t an option, and that what may appear to be clear-cut evidence about a use-of-force situation on video sometimes is not.

The event drew 30 people. We encourage the participants to share their experiences and the knowledge they gained so that others in the community benefit from their word-of-mouth experience and hope that more residents understand the benefits of this discussion series and participate in future discussions.

Building strong relationships between police and residents requires personal interaction and a level of trust. These public discussions foster that and provide blocks in creating lasting, positive relationships.