When Police Shoot: A Dialogue on the Use of Force

On Wednesday December 3, the National Law Enforcement Museum and The Memorial Foundation, builders of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, hosted the Museum’s inaugural Conversations on Law Enforcement panel discussion entitled When Police Shoot: A Dialogue on the Use of Force at the US Navy Memorial’s Burke Theater. The event provided an opportunity for a national discussion on police training and procedure, and the use of force.

Craig Floyd, Chairman & CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, kicked off the event by welcoming the nearly 150  guests in attendance, and thanking the event’s sponsor, Target®, and co-host, Harry Johnson, President & CEO of The Memorial Foundation, Builders of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Mr. Johnson briefly spoke about the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, DC, and encouraged the panelists, audience and general public to bring forth the four tenants of the Memorial: justice, hope, love and democracy.

Panelists for this event included DeKalb County (GA) Chief of Police and the President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) Cedric L. Alexander, PhD, and  former Cincinnati (OH) Chief of Police Thomas Streicher, Jr., and Reverend Tom Watson, Chief minister of Watson Memorial Training Ministry in New Orleans, LA. The event was moderated by cultural and political affairs commentator and former BET television host Jeff Johnson.

Mr. Johnson led an in-depth discussion on the use of force by police officers and the concept of community policing. Dr. Alexander and Chief Streicher drew from their decades of police experience to help the audience understand the complex decision-making process required for officers to do their job.

The panelists agreed that police officers need to deal with biases by addressing them through training and getting to know the communities they serve. “The philosophy of community policing,” noted Dr. Alexander, “needs to become a part of police culture, but it is a dual responsibility,” the community also needs to engage with their local agency.

Reverend Watson shared anecdotes about his experiences with law enforcement, and his perspective on what police officers can do to foster a greater sense of trust between themselves and their communities. He made the point that “If connection is going to happen between communities, it must be from the bottom up. It can’t be from the top down." To achieve this, he encouraged the development of a dialogue between the community and law enforcement, ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard.

The Museum’s Conversations on Law Enforcement program—generously funded by Target®—is an extension of the Museum’s popular Witness to History program. These new events will focus on contemporary issues that affect law enforcement officers and the communities they serve. 

For more information about the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, please visit www.nleomf.org. For more information about the National Law Enforcement Museum, please visit www.nleomf.org/museum.

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