Activists hope Raleigh leaders 'commit' to change this time

Thursday, November 3, 2016
Talks to focus on improving community relations
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Neighborhood policing, race relations are two of the hot button issues in the City of Raleigh.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Neighborhood policing and race relations are two of the hot button issues the City of Raleigh will discuss with the community at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 14 at Marbles Museum.

Those divisive topics seem to have strained the relationship between community activist Akiba Byrd and city leaders. Byrd said his past conversations with city council about community policing and reform have been a waste of time.

"Any attempt for them to continue this dialogue to me - to us - is a diversion tactic," Byrd said. "They already know what we want. They already know what will make a difference. And now it's time for them to go ahead and commit."

Byrd is a member of the Police Accountability Community Taskforce, or PACT. He said for months his group has asked the city to support a community oversight board, de-emphasize enforcement of marijuana possession and ramp up crisis intervention training.


The same skepticism is also coming from community advocate Diana Powell about the meetings.

"It's not enough," Powell said.

Powell said she believes people impacted by the issues will not attend the city's community meetings. She says a better idea is meeting with activists and folks in the trenches in at-risk communities. But even then, she's concerned the community's voice won't be heard.

"We're going to continue to educate ourselves," Powell said. "We're going to keep helping ourselves. That's been my message to the community the whole time. Stop looking for everyone else to help you and let's help ourselves."

ABC 11 asked Byrd what will be the course of action on behalf of the city to tackle his concerns.

"When they create a system that has transparency," Byrd said. "Transparency that actually creates accountability for the police - that's it. We're not stopping at anything less than that."

Raleigh Mayor Nancy MacFarlane responded to Powell and Byrd's concerns with this statement:

"The Community Conversations will be different by design - these are not mere listening sessions where the public speaks, the city listens and no follow-up occurs. These conversations are our invitation to the public to have a seat at the table - literally. The format for the citywide meetings will be small group, roundtable discussions with representatives from the public, community organizations and government.

We are entering this process without predetermined outcomes or recommendations; and instead we will look to the conversations to drive and inform our next steps, including the format and content of the five follow-up district meetings.

The entire public is invited and encouraged to participate in this very important endeavor. Participants have a role beyond sharing their ideas and concerns, they must also listen to the various and different voices that make up Raleigh. Each of us needs to be committed to the process and the role we will each play in developing and implementing recommendations and solutions that will lead to meaningful and impactful changes in our city to ensure everyone has access to opportunity and feels safe and valued."

The community meetings will also focus on affordable housing and education.

Two citywide sessions will be held this month followed by five district meetings, one in each of the City Council's five districts. The citywide meetings will be held:

Nov. 14 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Marbles Kids Museum, 201 E. Hargett St.; and,

Nov. 16 from 6:30 8:30 p.m. at Millbrook Exchange Community Center, 1905 Spring Forest Road.

The district meetings have not yet been scheduled. Once those details are finalized, an announcement will be made.

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