Public Forum Talks Police-Community Relations

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During a time of uncertainty and distrust across our nation, people in Wheeling are working together to show that we can all work together.

Wednesday night, at West Virginia Northern Community College, members or the NAACP, The Upper Ohio Valley Ministerial Alliance, and the community met with local law enforcement and the FBI to talk police community relations. 

The meeting was called ‘Not in our Backyard’ and the purpose was for everyone to learn to be proactive to sensitive topics and how to keep them from happening here, “It gives us as a community a handling on knowing these things are being looked at and how we should approach them, if they occur, like the slogan says, ‘In Our Backyard’,” said President of the Upper Ohio Valley NAACP, Darryl Clausell.

It’s the first step in what the people in attendance hope will be an ongoing police, community forum, “Could there be a Ferguson here, maybe, maybe not, but one thing we do know is to have open collaboration ahead of time with our law enforcement means a lot to us and this community,” Clausell added.

The forum gave a number of the people here tonight the opportunity to ask Wheeling Police and the FBI vital question, surrounding how to make our community better and how they can protect themselves, “It is very important in my opinion, that if you’re the leader of a law enforcement organization that you be accessible, that you listen, it doesn’t mean you always have to agree, but at least you just listen and that you be responsible, and that you believe in accountability,” said Wheeling Police Chief, Shawn Schwertfeger. 

A major topic during the meeting was diversity and how well police deal with the minority population in Wheeling, “I see more relations, than non-relations, so I think relationships are good. Others may disagree, but from my perspective, I’ve not been treated with anything but respect and have an open dialogue,” Chief Schwertfeger said.

Under the direction of Chief Schwertfeger, he has implemented a set of checks and balances for his department with the office of professional standards. It’s also a tool to help officers learn how to handle situations in the future.

Organizers of this event plan to have another discussion in the future, this time showing video of police tactics and they hope that will open the conversation about whether officers acted appropriately during the given situations.

A date for that meeting has not yet been set.

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