The Delaware Coalition to Dismantle the New Jim Crow held a meeting Monday night to address shootings involving police officers and individuals of color.
A panel of speakers – including Dr. Reverend Lawrence Livingston and Wilmington Police Chief Bobby Cummings - discussed violence and police brutality.
The goal: go beyond sharing personal stories and work to find solutions.
Lawrence says one problem is the misinterpretation of the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”
“It’s perhaps the new Civil Rights movement," he said. "It’s not just black lives matter in terms of police brutality and the consequences of black men and women being killed. It’s black lives matter in education, black lives matter in politics, black lives matter in jobs, black jobs matter in economic development in cities, black lives matter across the board.”
Not unlike the breast cancer awareness movement, he says the “Black Lives Matter” movement doesn’t mean that other lives – or other cancers – don’t matter.
Minister Rachel Livingston points out it’s also important acknowledge that black women, as well as black men – have been killed by police officers.
She adds African Americans need to learn to respect themselves, and feels many acts of violence are unhealthy efforts to feel respected.
“We’ve done a lot of things to change public policy, but we haven’t changed hearts," she said. "We’ve integrated our public spaces but at the same time people have the option to still carry out their biases and prejudices.”
She calls the issue deep and complicated, but one that can’t be avoided.
Wilmington Police Chief Bobby Cummings spoke on a panel Monday night about improving relations between the community and police officers.
He said both sides need to reach out to each other, adding he’s working to increase the diversity of the Wilmington police force.
The last police class the city hired was its most diverse to date and Cummings says another group of 18 officers set to be hired is also very diverse, and includes some Wilmington natives.
“When you’ve lived in a city for a lot of your life, you’re familiar with the surroundings, then you’re in a better position to understand what happens throughout the community," Cumming said.
When asked why the use of force policy was not a public document Cummings said the policy is currently under review.
He also says the police department is working with the University of Delaware to conduct a citizen satisfaction survey.
He hopes the survey will be complete by the end of the summer.
Following the panel discussion, the audience helped brainstorm ideas to increase trust between officers and community members.