Residents Grade County on Race Relations at Town Hall Meeting (VIDEO & PHOTOS)
More than 200 residents packed the room at the BlackRock Center for the Arts for a town hall meeting on police and race relations hosted by the County on Wednesday night.
It was the second town hall held this week. Panelists included, Police Chief Tom Manger, Montgomery County Council President Nancy Floreen, Montgomery County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Linda Plummer, and Faith Community Working Group Staff Liaison Mansfield Kaseman. Councilmembers Craig Rice and Sidney Katz also attended the meeting. MyMCMedia’s Maureen Chowdhury reports.
Moderator James Stowe, the director of the Montgomery County Office of Human Rights, asked residents to grade Montgomery County on race relations to start the town hall discussion.
Grades ranged from B plus to F. The common theme residents brought up is that there’s room for improvement.
“I think the Montgomery County police do a great job in general,” Kevin Polite, of Silver Spring, said. “However, good is not great, great is not excellent…we do need to improve on the race relations in the Upcounty area, where youths are being harassed by police officers and don’t feel safe in general being out and being amongst police, we do need to do a better job about that,” he said. He rates the County’s race relations a B plus.
Ali Hashemzadeh, of Silver Spring gave the county a C for race relations; “I see what goes on with our youth at times and it’s sad,” Hashemzadeh said. “I shouldn’t have to have a talk with the youth that I work with, having ‘The Talk,’ if you will, or simply being scared for their lives if they’re stopped by a police officer,” he said. He also noted that the grade might differ from person to person depending on where in the county they live.
Chief Manger said that it’s important for the police to hear both the good and the bad experiences from residents. “I think a lot of the folks here appreciate the job my cops do, but there are a lot of folks here that have had bad experiences with the police and to the extent that we can listen to their experience and make sure our training is what it should be…making sure we’re holding officers accountable, that’s important as well.” Manger also said that the department is working on community outreach as well.
Overall Director Stowe said that the average grade for the county on race relations is probably a B minus or C plus. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, that’s what I’m drawing from what I heard. So, I’m going to go back, reevaluate what we’re doing, what we can in fact do to from what we’ve heard, and how can we turned it around into programs, opportunities for outreach for our community,” he said.
— Maureen Chowdhury (@MediaMaureen) July 20, 2016