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WARREN Groups discuss race relations



Published: Wed, August 22, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The community awareness group will be taking to the streets, the mayor said.

By AMANDA C. DAVIS

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- The future success of race relations lies in a solid foundation, and to build that, a community must educate its young people.

That was one point made Tuesday by a local community awareness group commissioned by Mayor Hank Angelo.

The group met at the city's Community Development office on Main Avenue S.W.; about 35 people attended, including city officials, area pastors, black community leaders and representatives from service organizations.

The group broke off into teams to tackle communications between the city and the black community. They were to address issues they believe stand in the way of open communications.

Don Emerson, director of Trumbull Metropolitan Housing Authority, said those who discuss sensitive race-related issues often become irrational.

A lack of trust of city officials and police officers means rumors fly in the black community, furthering the problem of miscommunication.

"That means we've got to talk comfortably about race," he said. "Unfortunately, people don't like to do that."

In order to foster better relations between different ethnic groups, communities must educate the public, especially young people, some group members said.

Rev. F. Robert Williams of Mount Olive Baptist Church said young people today have little respect and aren't being taught morality.

Schools, churches and communities have the opportunity to help shape young people into upstanding and tolerant citizens, he added.

Meeting to come: The community awareness group will meet again, and citizens are welcome to attend. Angelo said the group will hit the streets, perhaps when it meets next. A date was not given.

Getting out into the community will give the group a chance to visit organizations such as the Action Community Outreach Program on Niles Road, Angelo said.

The group found that standing in the way of effective communication is a lack of diversity training, a biased media, public mistrust, police brutality and excessive force.

Clyde Wilson of Warren said police officers need to be held accountable when they act outside their authority.

He criticized the city, saying internal investigations of police wrongdoing should be left up to a citizens committee, not the police department.

Angelo defended police, saying it's hard for them to look into complaints when witnesses don't come forward because of fear of retaliation.

Police Chief John Mandopoulos said the department is buying a few cameras to place in cruisers to record traffic stops. He also plans to reinstate a ride-along program that allows citizens to accompany officers on their shifts.

Private sessions: On a related note, city officials and community and church leaders have been meeting in closed door sessions with the U.S. Department of Justice to discuss race relations.

Angelo said the justice department has asked that highlights of those meetings be made public in the future.

The justice department contacted the city a few days after Lamont Murray, 29, of Warren contended that Sgt. Rob Massucci and patrol officer David Weber used excessive force when they arrested him June 25.

He says the officers caused him head injuries that required staples.

Citizens concerned about police brutality plan to demonstrate peacefully Friday outside the Municipal Justice Building on South Street S.E.

The demonstration, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., will be followed by a community forum from 3 to 6 p.m. in the Trumbull Community Action Program building, 1230 Palmyra Road S.W.

davis@vindy.com




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