Minority groups in Toledo signed a code of conduct pact with police in hopes of improving community relations. Through a coalition representing the minority groups an agreement was reached bringing both sides together in hopes of finding real solutions to problems instead of reasons to blame each other when trouble arise.
“If you just get together when there’s a crisis, you’re just reacting to that crisis,” said Ray Wood, head of the local NAACP branch. “We wanted to have something that everyone could point to that goes beyond the dialogue.”
The community code of conduct concept began out of concerns of increased police-involved shootings nationwide. Organizers felt it was “just a matter of time until it happens here”. Toledo hasn’t experienced any incidents as of late but community leaders wanted to be prepared.
The four-paged ‘do’s and dont’s’ calls on the community to cooperate with cops during basic and routine investigations, to keep their hands in view at all times and to stop yelling or escalating the situation. It also mentions that residents are free to record their interaction with police.
For officers; they must remain as calm as the situation allows, spend one hour on duty walking around the community to better engage with the residents, and follow the provided outline on when they can use force.
According to Toledo Police Chief George Kral, many of the points referencing officers are already included in their department policies.
“What I’m hoping, is the biggest result is that when something is going down on street — on both sides — we take a breath and it’s ‘let’s talk’,” Kral said. “We give them a voice. We treat everyone the same.”
“Inevitably something is going to happen,” he said. “That’s where this is going to come into play.”
One of the leading organizations in the coalition, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, played an integral role in the drafting of the code of conduct. On behalf of the Hispanic community, the organization plans to meet with city’s cops at their local training academy to further discuss the code of conduct.
The organization’s president, Baldemar Velasquez, said about he code, “It has to be driven by independent groups, not city-affiliated organizations.”
“There’s not much I can do in Baltimore or St. Louis or New York, but we can do something here in Toledo and get people together,” he said. “To solve a problem, you need people’s involvement.”
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