Local leaders discuss police interactions with the community

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Racial tensions, interactions with the mentally ill, and addiction. Community leaders discussed those topics and more Saturday morning, with representatives from the Wilmington Police, Department of Public Safety, and the D.A.’s Office.

After a short presentation, a question and answer session ensued. Discussion turned to the events and protests of last summer, and locals asked how officers are training to keep police brutality from happening here.

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“You know, it’s not about defunding them,” said Sergeant Myron Irving, with the Wilmington Police Department. “I think we’ve got to, I think we’ve got to do more training. Where it involves cultural sensitivity, juvenile, minority sensitivity.”

According to Irving, officers have received far more training in response to that need.

The conversation then turned to interactions with mentally ill persons, specifically to 2014: when a Southport Police Officer shot and killed a mentally handicapped teenager in his own home.

“And that led on our side of the bridge to a real awareness for what we call C-I-T triaining, crisis intervention training,” said John David, District Attorney for Brunswick, Columbus, and Bladen counties. “You know, and I’m sure Myron could tell you a little more about that. But it is now a requirement that officers learn de-escalation tactics when dealing with people who are mentally infirm.”

Oftentimes, addiction can contribute to mental instability. Judge Quinton McGee acknowledged that. He continued that since the war on drugs, those in the D.A.’s office have worked to treat those suffering from addiction. It’s a policy they’ve had to continue to fine tune with Wilmington’s opioid epidemic.

“You can’t arrest away or lock up away a substance abuse issue or mental health issue, said NC district court judge, McGee. “We have to be better attuned at recognizing those issues from the outset and dealing with those issues appropriately.”

With this focus on training and effort to connect with civilians, police, district attorneys, and public safety officers hope they can continue to serve the community, working to better their interactions and keep the area safe.