In the wake of the recent, senseless attacks on police officers and the killing of black Americans that shocked the nation, hundreds of Kansans turned out to make their voices heard in response to the continuing violence that is tearing our communities apart. And while city and state police gathered to keep a close eye on the protest, they simply watched the event happen without intervening.
But the next day things really got fired up. According to ABC News in Kansas, Wichita police chief Gordon Ramsay invited local Black Lives Matter leaders to meet with him at the police headquarters the day after the protest — not to reprimand their actions, but to have a discussion about where to go next.
“Our officers are going call to call to call. They don’t have time to build positive relationships,” Ramsay said. “It’s reactive policing. It’s not a healthy way to do it. And what I heard from protesters last night is they want to see community policing.”
“The heart and soul of who I am: I am about community relationships, and we just need to figure these things out.”
Ramsay listened to what protesters had to say and decided that the next big step in figuring things out would be for the police to cook dinner for everyone!
BLM organizers had been planning another protest for July 17. But that was when they were still expecting their cries to be ignored once again. But after the successful conversation with Ramsay on July 12, the BLM organizers decided to cancel the upcoming protest and instead team up with the police for a community cookout, in an effort to improve relationships, start conversations, and promote positive interactions between officers and citizens.
In addition to some tasty burgers and dogs, there were speeches by local community leaders, and a Q&A session with the police to open up the conversation about how to make communities safer and improve respect across the board.
For some people in Wichita, it was the first time in decades they actually had a chance to sit with and engage police officers in a civil discussion. While there are plenty of factors that have contributed to this breakdown in police-community relations in the city itself, something as simple as a Community Cook Out is an important first step toward getting to know each other. Hopefully, other communities can follow suit.
Members of the community became emotional when talking to reporters about the event. One tearful woman said: “In a world full of hate it’s about time we remember what love is.”
One police officer has become an internet sensation after he was filmed dancing at the event.
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