At Monday's community breakfast, Warren's police chief noted he wants city officers to complete a diversity course by year's end.
By PEGGY SINKOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- It's a beginning.
A community awareness breakfast for more than 30 city and school leaders was held Monday at DiLucia's Restaurant on Elm Road, for discussion of ways of preventing racial unrest.
"We need to start somewhere," said Mayor Hank Angelo, who called the meeting in hope of putting together a team of people the city can call on if a race riot were to happen.
"We don't want what happened in Cincinnati to happen here, and if it does happen we want to be prepared," the mayor said.
The Cincinnati riots happened after a black man was shot to death by a white Cincinnati police officer April 7. The shooting sparked a week of what is described as the city's worst riots in 30 years. The unrest prompted city leaders and residents to search for solutions to the racial divide in an effort to prevent any repeat eruptions.
"What people don't realize is that the police department has very few alternatives to lethal force when someone is armed with a gun," Warren police Chief John Mandopoulos said during the meeting. "We want to come up with other alternatives and anyone who has an idea is free to contact me. I don't know of a police officer who wants to shoot anyone."
One alternative: The chief noted that the city police department has recently purchased an "electric gun" which shocks a person, causing them to fall to the ground. The gun will immobilize a person for a brief period but will not cause lasting injuries, the chief said. The gun costs about $500, the chief said.
"We are not yet trained on them but we hope to do that soon," the chief noted.
He added that by year's end he wants all of the city's officers to complete a 24-hour diversity training course.
"We need to know how to properly deal with everyone," the chief said. "I want the community to know that the police department welcomes everyone to our city. We want everyone in our city to have freedom of religion and we do not want any ethnic group to be slandered. We want our streets safe for everyone."
The mayor invited numerous people to the function, including all community leaders, representatives from all 104 churches in the city, officials from the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Warren-Trumbull Urban League.
Second meeting: The mayor said he tried to be inclusive when he invited community leaders, but noted anyone he forgot can attend a second meeting. A date has not been set for that meeting.
"I also want to know from the people here today who else you believe we should have at one of these meetings," the mayor told the audience. "I want to make sure that no one is left out."
The mayor said Cliff Johnson, a former city school teacher and principal, facilitated the meeting.