CLEVELAND COUNTY, Oklahoma – The Cleveland County sheriff is calling all residents to come to a community forum about policing and race relations. He is hosting the event next weekend alongside groups like the NAACP, Black Lives Matter and the ACLU.
The Police and Community Trust Initiative (PACT) is bringing together these different perspectives to try and address any concerns and alleviate any fears residents might have.
Since coming into office, Sheriff Todd Gibson has implemented a Community Advisory Board for the jail and Racial Intelligence Training and Engagement for his deputies to better interact with people of all backgrounds. He says he also works closely with advocacy groups.
“We partner with them and communicate with them on a routine basis on how we provide service and how we can improve our service to the citizens,” says Gibson.
The sheriff feels like these efforts do not always translate into a positive public perception, though, especially among minority groups. That is why he says the forum is much needed.
“It’s a time that we can communicate openly and communicate candidly about issues that might be concerning to the public,” he says, “and it’s not after something terrible has happened.”
Parts of Cleveland County are in the midst of racial tension, however. Numerous videos of young people donning blackface and using racial slurs have emerged in recent weeks, sparking protests, and local NAACP president Garland Pruitt says the upcoming discussion needs to be about education and understanding.
“It ain’t just going to be your way or it ain’t just going to be just my way,” he says. “It’s going to be our way in trying to fix and resolve all these issues.”
That is why Pruitt wants not only minorities to attend this forum, but also the people who think it is okay to belittle other members of society.
Pruitt says, “We want to be respectful to each other and when we consider and deal with those things, we’re all in this together whether we like it or not. Martin Luther King said, ‘We’re going to have to learn to live together as decent human beings or we’re going to die as fools.’”
The forum is happening next Saturday, Feb. 23 from 2-4 p.m. at the Moore Norman Technology Center located at 13301 S Pennsylvania Avenue in Oklahoma City.
Original Post Friday, February 15th 2019 By Jessi Mitchell