Race and the Use of Police Force Discussed at Community Police Forum

sk_hyannis-comm-police-forum_10-1-25HYANNIS – Citizens and police officers from across the Cape contributed to a cooperative conversation about race, community policing and the use of force Saturday at the Mid-Cape Community Police Forum.

The forum was held at the Zion Union Heritage Museum, and featured police officers from Barnstable and Dennis, as well as representatives from other towns.

A number of citizens’ comments focused on examining the use of force that they have seen used in videos from across the nation, especially on minorities.

Barnstable Police Chief Paul MacDonald said that his department made an effort a few years ago to train officers on tasers, and he said the use of them in potentially deadly situations has successfully de-escalated many of them.

“If we do have some complaints against a single officer two or three times, even if he cannot be proved to be responsible for a wrongdoing, we will put him or her through re-training, counselling or whatever needs to be done to take care of it,” he said.

A number of the officers present noted that they do more on a daily basis than just make arrests and issue citations.

Dennis Police Officer Liz Tucker of Dennis related the story of when she helped a J-1 Visa worker who could not speak a word of English find his job site.

Addressing the concerns of some participants, Tucker stressed that the interaction proved successful because of her efforts to make herself appear friendly and helpful; the opposite of what many in attendance said they had experienced at some point.

But while most of the attendees’ comments did not specify any directly racist action made by Cape Cod officers, Barbara Burgo said that she has experienced many interpersonal instances of racism on the Cape.

She said that, while bagging groceries at a grocery store, some customers refused to let a woman of color such as herself touch their products.

Attendees agreed that the way to prevent potentially race-driven, or any kind of violence from and against police officers is to continue to provide them with enough officers to serve the fluctuating population of the communities they serve, and to provide their communities with education regarding their work.

Citizens’ police academy courses were lauded at the forum for doing just that, and many of both the officers and the citizens present said they would like to see more of them at other stations in the future.

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