WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington community leaders are trying to come up with a way to keep the port city peaceful while tensions are high across the country.
Organizer Bishop James Utley said it is not meant to be a venting session or a coming together rally. He said it is about finding a better way to communicate throughout the community.
“It’s tragic and we recognize that it’s happening all over the country,” Robert Campbell said.
Robert Campbell said violence is happening all over the country.
“How is our community prepared to deal with these kind of incidents? Campbell asked. “How do we prevent those things from happening?”
That is why Utley called this meeting with the community, city and county leaders, and law enforcement.
“We have to respect one another,” Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said. “In order to get respect, we have to give respect.”
Evangelous said the recent shootings and protests have weighed on their officers, but he said that is not changing the way they do their job.
“We can’t treat everyone like their a bad guy, like they’re a suspect and that’s the key,” Evangelous said.
He said the key is conversation.
“That’s what we had this evening, a conversation about what we can do proactively,” Campbell said.
Not everyone agreed though.
“While I won’t say a waste of time, it was not very productive, because we did not address the issues at hand,” Kedar Brunson said.
Kedar Brunson said the meeting should have been more about the community’s thoughts and questions.
“Not about politicians or statistics, not about body cameras,” Brunson said. “What can we do to fix this problem so our youth aren’t dying in the streets like dogs every day?”
Chief Evangelous said they are working on it.
“We fix this problem nationally by building relationships by getting out of the cars, by rolling windows down, by having positive interactions with people when we’re not on calls, when we’re not looking for suspects,” Evangelous said.
Campbell said this is just the beginning of the conversation.
“An hour and a half is not enough time to do it. I think more than anything else we need to get people engaged,” Campbell said.
The police chief also said they desperately need more officers especially minorities and women. Organizers said they want to have more of these meetings.