With her deputies in tow, Raleigh Police Department Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown accepted the invitation to come to the headquarters of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP for a serious sit-down discussion with community leaders fed up with the violence in the capital city. In 2019, the homicide rate in Raleigh reached a 10-year high.
"First, I'm here just to hear what's on the hearts, what's on the minds of others." Deck-Brown said. "And then beginning to explore what eventual possibilities exists in dealing with these issues."
At the table: Reverend Portia Rochelle, a pipeline to local clergy; Gerald Givens, President of Raleigh-Apex NAACP and social justice activist; and Tiffany Garner, state manager of community violence initiatives for Giffords Courage to Fight Gun Violence--the nationwide organization founded by former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, infamously wounded in a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson.
Garner said she came to listen.
"So, what do you think are some of the things that have created the uptick in violence in Wake County?" Garner asked the table.
One Raleigh police officer pointed to the glorification of gang culture. He told the group many older Raleigh gang members are now passing down the culture down to a new generation in a cycle.
The chief called Raleigh gun violence a public health issue--one her department is not equipped to stop on its own.
After the deadliest year in over a decade in Raleigh, the police chief, activists, clergy and the Gabby Giffords Gun Violence Prevention Organization huddle to find ways to reduce the city’s gun death total. #abc11 pic.twitter.com/HLvR22dp2p— Joel Brown (@JoelBrownABC11) January 23, 2020
Raleigh Police Department's newly-deployed gun violence reduction strategy is critically dependent on the public's help.
Reverend Rochelle made clear from the outset she believes the problem needs more than conversation.
"I'm not here for a whole lot of meetings and a lot of talk without taking action," Rochelle said. "So that's why I'm here. I want to do something about this."
The gathering was the Givens' idea. He connected Giffords' representative with activists, local elected leaders, clergy and law enforcement in meetings over the last two days across Wake County.
"The best thing that I took away from this conversation today is the word 'connection,'" Givens said. "More cooperation, less infighting and let's really look at the goals and making sure that we're getting the results that the people in our communities need. Safety is number one.
Givens said all the lessons and ideas from the last two days of conversation will be consolidated into a short and long-term plan of action that Givens hopes will get results.