The recent police shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, has sparked demonstrations nationwide.
In light of that situation, the Reno Police Department is stepping up their efforts to reach out to businesses and residents to build stronger community relationships, but the Reno-Sparks NAACP says that’s not enough.
Several officers are gathered at a bakery in South Reno, but they’re not investigating a crime.
They’re hosting an event called “Cup with a Cop” to engage with community members like Cesar Minera, a pastor at a Latino church in Reno. He’s been working with other Latino church leaders in the area and law enforcement for the last two years to develop more trusting relationships.
“For example, the first time we met, we expressed how sometimes our community, probably due to past experiences in our countries, sometimes does not feel very comfortable with authority,” Minera says.
Officer Tim Broadway says the department will continue to holding these kinds of events in neighborhoods throughout the region.
“It’s part of the ongoing efforts to build positive community relationships, to make your officers more approachable,” Broadway says. “And let the community know what our efforts are and to try and avoid situations like Ferguson.”
Broadway says it’s hard to predict whether something similar to Ferguson could happen in Reno, but building strong ties in the community is one way to prevent such tragedies.
“If you don’t build that rapport and relationship with the citizens, and if they always take the police in a negative context, it’s very difficult to accurate information from a community if they don’t have respect for their officers,” Broadway says.
But Andrew Barbano, with the local NAACP, says police need more community oversight and he recommends the department institute a review board consisting of citizens and legal experts charged with: “Reviewing specific areas of the police department," Barbano says, "and police conduct and police funding and police training; no one would argue that we wouldn’t benefit from better police training in all areas.”
Barbano says the group has made this suggestion in the past, but it hasn’t gained traction with the police department.