NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – A community forum at New Calvary Baptist Church Friday evening brought in nearly 100 people to discuss concerns about how the police interact with the community.
The topics included high rates of poverty, drugs, systemic injustice, and police brutality. However, most at the forum said they have one common goal: to make things better for the people in Norfolk.
Tensions were high as people gathered, expressing frustration over police brutality.
“My skin color should not determine whether or not I survive,” Dr. Robert Perkins, a Norfolk State University Professor said. “There are miscommunications going on, and they are going on in epic events that are causing us to loose people that look just like me.”
“It’s obvious that everybody is really stressed and frustrated over what’s happening in the world now,” said church member Kay Hilliard. “The only way to attack it is to have the powers that be present so we can discuss what needs to happen tomorrow, after this forum is over.”
Some goals of the forum included starting the conversation and improving communication between police and the community.
Norfolk Police Chief Michael Goldsmith attended the meeting, and told 10 On Your Side, “We have to find a way to work together to strengthen neighborhoods, make sure we build communities of choice, make sure communities come together and come together with the police department so that we can attack this as a team.”
One by one, people lined up to ask questions of the panel, which included a pastor, professor, Norfolk’s vice mayor, and the Chief Goldsmith. Although not a packed sanctuary, some saw the forum as a step in the right direction.
“It will probably bring community closer together and get them more engaged in what’s going on and ease people’s mind in the community,” attendee Deborah Ross said.
Much of the talk at Friday’s forum centered on what has happened in other places like Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York. People at the forum said they would like to have another forum that includes other local police chiefs and even more law makers.