Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday August 14th 2018


The Buzz 7/2/15

Talking Race Relations With the painful memory of the recent mass murder at a church in Charleston, South Carolina fresh in everyone’s mind, Pensacola’s new police chief, David Alexander, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan and Rev. LuTimothy May spoke about the relationship between law enforcement and the African-American community at the Panhandle TigerBay Club’s June meeting.

“I would say it’s a strained and fatigued relationship,” Alexander said. “When people become strained they become desperate, and when you become desperate you’re going to have people overreact.”

May said he can’t assume that the relationship is better off now than ever before.

“I want to believe that. I want to hope for that, but I just believe it’s been disguised for so long,” he said.

While Morgan said there isn’t a current or specific issue between law enforcement and the African-American community in Escambia County, the dialog and outreach should never stop.

“It will take, unfortunately, many, many years to correct it,” he said.

Breaking down barriers, increasing accountability and responsibility, seeking the truth, and stopping the blame game were among the topics discussed as answers to questions submitted by attendees.

Alexander said the strained relationship is consistent across the country, but that Pensacola has been blessed it hasn’t experienced some of the situations other areas have.

“That doesn’t mean we should remain complacent, it means we should be proactive,” he said.

For Alexander, action comes in the form of accountability and community policing. He said accountability should be 360 degrees, where there is personal, public and systemic accountability.

“One of the things about law enforcement is you have to deal with a lot of the failures in other systems, and when those systems fail, relationships become strained and there’s always a blame game,” he said. “It doesn’t become the cause of the crime, but it becomes a mitigating factor.”

Alexander pointed to the Belmont-DeVilliers neighborhood, which he said was once labeled a high-crime spot, as an example of what a police and community partnership can accomplish. In 2001, he was assigned to implement community policing strategies in the neighborhood. What started out negative ended up being a relationship-building process because the residents got some things off their chest, the Pensacola Police Department addressed the problems and the community was very supportive of them.

“When we got through building that relationship with the community and enforcing those quality of life issues that were in the neighborhood, Belmont-DeVilliers regained its value as a thriving African-American area of town,” he said. “Every time I pass by Belmont-DeVilliers, no matter what time of night it is or what time of day, I see sustained accomplishment that came from a police-community partnership.”

Simply put, “You need to understand what the problem is in your neighborhood and get actively involved in solving that problem,” Alexander said.

Similarly, Morgan pointed out that there are more than 130 neighborhood watches now, but there were only 13 when he took office.

When asked what law enforcement needs to do to improve the relationship, Morgan said, “Continue to find the right dialog, the right people to carry the message and also continue to invest in those programs that are going to pay dividends (such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and PACE Center for Girls).”

Pages: 1 2