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Speaker works to bridge gap

YOUNGSTOWN — What many concerned residents want most from police can be broken down into five pieces, a longtime law-enforcement expert contends.

“I’m a strong advocate for police and community relations,” said Delphine Baldwin-Casey, who conducted a three-hour workshop on the topic Friday at Choffin Career and Technical Center on East Wood Street near downtown. “When I talk to citizens in the community, I’m part of that community.”

Baldwin-Casey teaches classes on cultural diversity and sensitivity, consults with many area police departments and is a retired Youngstown Police Department detective sergeant who worked largely with victims of domestic violence. The five elements crucial to building vibrant police-community relations are communication, respect, accountability, freedom from fear, and trust, she told attendees.

Too often, a lack of effective communication is a barrier to building positive relationships with police, and some people — especially those in minority communities — still perceive that authorities disrespect them, said Baldwin-Casey, who began her career with the department in 1978. Also, a disciplinary system some see as unresponsive and unwieldy remains in place to handle officer misconduct, she noted.

In addition, many minorities — mainly young males — fear encounters with police, which often drives a wedge between officers and neighborhood residents, Baldwin-Casey explained.

Another frequent complaint she’s heard while conducting such forums is that many officers don’t live in the communities they serve, which some say leads to a lack of understanding of the neighborhoods on their beats or a commitment to work with residents. Nevertheless, that doesn’t have to block healthful relationships from developing between both, Baldwin-Casey continued.

“A good police officer can work in any community,” she said, adding, “Our young people need to see the other side of the police.”

Baldwin-Casey said she gave a workshop similar to Friday’s about five years ago, but felt this one was needed in light of the spate of high-profile police shootings of unarmed black men since then. It’s vital that the so-called “code of silence” to protect officers who commit acts of wrongdoing is broken, she continued.

“I would have jumped in there to help that young man,” Baldwin-Casey said, referring to George Floyd, the 46-year-old black man who was killed May 25 after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was captured on videotape holding his knee to Floyd’s neck. Floyd’s death became a rallying cry for months of worldwide protests against racism and police brutality.

news@tribtoday.com

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