YARMOUTH – Monday night’s decision of a Ferguson, Missouri grand jury not to indict a white police officer for the killing of an unarmed black teenager has had repercussions across the country as people react to the news.
Here on Cape Cod, civil rights leader John L. Reed, who is the vice president of the Cape Cod branch of the NAACP, said the issue comes down to trust.
When there are conflicts locally, Reed said, mediation is one of the roles of the local NAACP chapter to try to iron out issues early in the process.
He said that for years, his organization has kept the lines of communication open with local police departments, particularly in Barnstable and Yarmouth.
“There’s been a historical difference of opinion between community policing and good policing within our communities of color, and one of the important things is, do you trust the police,” he said.
As for reaction to the Ferguson verdict, Reed urged calm. “It may be in Ferguson, Missouri, but it’s not here on Cape Cod,” he said.
Reed said that relations between police and minorities in Massachusetts vary, depending on the town. “Some communities of color have good relationships with police departments and the amount of police men of color in those departments tend to communicate with those communities much better,” he said.
In Ferguson, Reed said, the fact that the police department does not have a racial mix similar to the town itself, has resulted in a problem with the community trusting the police. “People don’t trust them,” he said of police.
He brought up the case of Trayvon Martin, the teenager shot by George Zimmerman in Florida in 2012, and the recent case of the black teenager shot in Cleveland.
“You start looking at the number of fatalities and who they are–you don’t hear that happening in white communities,” he said.
He also blamed the media for, as he put it, “pumping up issues to the point where uninformed people come to their own opinions.”
Reed pointed to the lack of jobs in some minority communities for adding to the problem of civic unrest. “Unemployment creates a problem, no matter what kind of community you live in,” he said.
Listen below for more of Cape Cod.com’s interview with John Reed, vice president of the NAACP, Cape Cod branch.