RALEIGH (WTVD) --As a diverse group of about 100 Raleigh residents made their way into north Raleigh's Millbrook Exchange Community Center, they were each handed a flyer; it laid out the rules of engagement, the purpose, the context, and suggestions on how to productively discuss the feelings that have been simmering in the city for years.
"There are a lot of national conversations, but this is about us. And, who we are and how we see ourselves and who we want to be," said Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane.
It was the second and final citywide discussion on how to move police-community relations forward past the divisions first laid bare in February when Akiel Denkins was shot and killed by a Raleigh police officer. The shooting was followed by days of protests and calls for change.
By placing its police officers literally at the table with residents, Raleigh city leaders say they believe this is a big first step toward healing the divide between cops and community.
Listening in on the conversations, some residents highlighted the economic and social inequities they feel here.
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"It doesn't start with the officer. It began long before the officer ever came on the scene. And that's the part that racially divides us," one resident told her group.
There weren't just concerns, but questions too. Like, what is community policing? Is it helping to ease tensions?
"But, I don't live in that community so I don't know if (community policing) is really working or whether it's just making us all feel better," another resident told her group.
And while the conversations seem to flow freely, activists have complained in the run-up to the meeting that the time for talk has passed. They say it's time for action.
ABC11 asked Mayor McFarlane about the fear from some that that the results from the citywide discussions would simply be presented in a report that is ultimately forgotten.
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"Well, that's why people come in and sit down and the first thing we do is say, you are an active part of this conversation," McFarlane answered. "We want people in the community to take ownership. It's their community."
What happens next?
City staffers sat at each table taking detailed notes about the concerns presented. They will now compile the data and turn it over to city council in January.
Five more community meetings will then be scheduled -- one in each city council district -- to address the geographic-specific concerns.
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