A community forum Thursday night brought law enforcement and Sioux Falls residents together. The meeting sought to end stereotypes and stigmas held by some Sioux Falls residents and the local police department.
During the meeting a panel of law enforcement officers answered questions about policies, handling protests, discrimination, and recruiting future officers. One question is about implicit biases. Trooper Julian Beaudion says his solution is to have a professional mindset.
“We need to look at everyone exactly the same, until we have a reason not to look at them differently. And I don’t believe a flat bill cap, a certain vehicle, or skater board shoes defines the way we look at someone body,” says Beaudion.
After hearing from law enforcement, audience members got to offer their own suggestions for proactive solutions. One was Sioux Falls Resident Ileana Perez.
“It’s not so much you, but the laws that you have to uphold that people feel are unfair and then attach that stigma to you because you’re the jailer, you’re the one that we interact with,” says Perez.
Perez asks the officers to explain the role of police in the criminal justice system. Police officials responded that people need to understand the police’s role is not to make laws, but to uphold them, and different law enforcement agencies uphold different types of laws.
Mark Blackburn is with the nonprofit organization Establishing Sustainable Connections. He says getting law enforcement officers and audience members to brainstorm about problems holds people accountable to goals as a community.
“It’s not nothing reactionary on the basic things that are happening in the world right now, because that’s been said already- the shooting have kind of magnified it. I wanted people to understand that we have been doing everything in our power to get the communities together, to get the dialogue together, to be proactive,” says Blackburn.
This is the second community forum the organization has held.