PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — After numerous high-profile officer-involved shootings of minorities across the country, there has been a divide growing between police and their communities.
In order to bridge that gap, leaders from law enforcement and civil society organizations met Thursday at the Building Bridges Summit to understand the racial and ethnic disparities that exist in communities — and also to talk about ways they can remove them.
“Trust is the foundation of what allows law enforcement to be effective,” Deputy Chief Bob Day with Portland police said. “Trust is hard to gain and easy to lose.”
So what happens when that trust erodes?
According to Day, people begin to question if they can trust the system to be fair at all.
Law and policies are implemented with good intentions — but leaders admit there are unintended consequences and unequal impacts on communities of color.
“What I’m hopeful is with the law enforcement leaders here today that we’ll be able to recognize that,” Day said. “Identify that, talk about it, own it and also challenge the community to own their responsibilities and own their areas as well.”
Law enforcement officers from Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties joined leaders from several community organizations looking for ways to make positive steps forward together.
“We need to have better understanding of each other, of our communities and of our roles in our communities,” Radhika Niles, director of program development of Peace Action Exhibition, said.
The goal? To get everyone outside of their comfort zone and challenge each others’ perspectives.
“So having all of these perspectives that may contradict your own position at the same table cultivates a lot of challenging conversations, but at the same time, cultivate hope that maybe there is something we can agree upon or maybe some window of opportunity where we can create something different and change can happen there,” Meera Niles-Paul with Peace Action Exhibition said.
Thursday was the third annual Building Bridges Summit. Law enforcement and community members hope to continue building bridges for years to come.