Garner residents, officials discuss community-police relations

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Garner residents and officials discuss community-police relations Tuesday morning (WTVD)

The Garner Police Department, Garner Chamber of Commerce and Community of Hope Ministries discussed community-police relations with residents and leaders at First Baptist Church of Garner Tuesday.

"I believe we're unique because there's still a default to trust the police in this community but we also recognize that we could do something tomorrow that causes the community to question why did you do that?," said Garner Police Chief Brandon Zuidema. "So part of today is about not just what we do but more importantly why do we do it that way?"

Residents had the opportunity to ask questions and share solutions.

The importance of bringing a healthy relationship between police and the community to the forefront comes after recent events in Charlotte following a fatal officer-involved shooting.

"I believe that there's a fear factor," said Garner resident Tracy Bell, who is the senior pastor at New Bethel Christian Church. "Sometimes I fear you because you don't look like me, you know, or perhaps you're not dressed like me and unfortunately the escalation gets to a point where they don't know how to de-escalate."

Chief Zuidema said there is more his department can do to improve relations.

For example, the department has 65 sworn officers, of which 53 are white men. He says they're working to recruit a more diverse force.

Zuidema also said they hope to have more of these so-called community conversations in the coming weeks.

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