Regaining trust in the police department and in the community

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Two police officers looking at a reportAmidst growing racial tensions, community leaders in Hopkinsville, Ky., realized they needed to look for innovative solutions to help diverse city residents work together. In 2007, the Human Relations Commission launched “Hoptown-Our Town,” a large-scale community dialogue to pave the way for change. In their first two rounds of dialogues, participants discussed race relations and closing the achievement gap.

It was clear there was another issue brewing under the surface. Participants were concerned with possible racial profiling and the amount of contact police have with people of color. Roughly 35% of city residents are people of color, yet nearly half of the prison inmates in the region are people of color.

In 2009, Hoptown’s third round of dialogues focused on police-community relations. Among other things, participants took a hard look at the root causes of racial inequities in the criminal justice system. “We hoped that we worked together to help bridge differences and show that we’re all human and we all deserve respect,” noted Sandy Carpenter, a dialogue participant.

Recent successes from the dialogues include:

  • The police chief has taken steps to increase trust between police officers and the community, including having officers take their squad cars home so people know where officers live, advocating for body cameras, running a citizens' police academy, and establishing two community positions on the five-person hiring committee.
  • The city has hosted an international diversity festival over the last six years, with attendance reaching up to 3,000 people and continuing to grow each year.
  • Seven small grants were awarded to local organizations with the aim of improving community-police relations.

Looking ahead, Hoptown-Our Town has plans to broaden participation in the dialogues, conduct community surveys to find out how people feel about the criminal justice system, and develop recommendations that might help local agencies reduce the number of people of color in the penal system. The recently elected Mayor, Carter Hendricks, was heavily involved with CCRE from its beginning and is supportive of continuing the work.

Read more stories of communities addressing community-police relations.


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July 6, 2015

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Mayme Webb Bledsoe of the Duke Durham Neighborhood Partnership Uses Dialogue to Lift Voices in the Duke / Durham Community 

Dialogue to Change

Our ultimate goal is to create positive community change that includes everyone, and our tools, advice, and resources foster that kind of change. Whether you’re grappling with a divisive community issue, or simply want to include residents’ voices in city government, Everyday Democracy's Dialogue to Change process, using a racial equity lens, can help.