Police departments need to hire more officers from inner-city neighborhoods and better train officers to resolve conflicts and handle people with mental health issues, according to participants in a Baltimore conference organized Thursday by the National Black Police Association. Police-community relations was the theme of the 44th annual conference of the organization, founded in 1972 with chapters across the country, reports the Baltimore Sun. The 2015 police-involved death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore was a subtext for the conference.
“Law enforcement training has not kept up with the systemic issues of society,” said Lenora Dawson, an aide to the Baltimore City Sheriff, who spoke on the panel. “We have to start taking a holistic approach to this, and I think we have a long way to go.” Members of the Nation of Islam in the audience and others called on black police officers to speak out more when they see problems by fellow officers. Malik Aziz, deputy chief of the Dallas Police Department and chair of the National Black Police Association, also said police need to develop stronger community coalitions, reaching out to groups with whom they might disagree.