Elkhart, Ind. A roundtable brought together members of the Elkhart Police Dept. and residents who live in the area of West Garfield Avenue where tensions have arisen overtime.
“They have a view of police officers that's only from the back of a squad car,” said Dannell Brown, pastor of the neighborhood’s Agape Missionary Baptist Church where the meeting was held. “They don't view the police officers as someone who serves and protects the community.”
Brown said the purpose of Friday’s meeting was to clarify the reasons for the tensions between residents and police in the area.
Most recently, on July 3, a violent arrest on West Garfield landed an officer in the hospital. It started with a minor traffic violation but quickly escalated into a physical altercation.
Many residents spoke out at the meeting Friday, saying they were being unfairly targeted and harassed by police.
Resident Tiffany Gaylord said she was ticketed for her attitude when talking to an officer.
“When you’re the one who calls them you want someone to come save you,” Gaylord said. ‘I called you to be saved, not to spend some night in that little cell because you didn't like what I had to say.”
Other residents claimed officers were too aggressive.
Police representatives said sometimes residents mistake police protocol for harassment.
Lt. Scott Hupp explained that when officers see someone reaching for something out of sight, they are trained to assume that it’s a weapon.
“We just see someone reaching and we don’t know what they’re reaching for,” Lt. Hupp said. “That's an officer safety issue.”
The idea of a “Police Citizen’s Academy” was presented as a way to break down that communication barrier.
Residents would have the opportunity to come in to the station once a week for a presentation on a different facet of police training and response.
“That way we can help residents understand why we do certain things the way that we do them according to our training,” Hupp said.