Fort Worth

Federal Study of Police-Community Relations Starts in Fort Worth

Study's goal is to find ways to improve relationships between police and citizens

In the wake of the unrest in Baltimore and Ferguson, there's a big push to improve relationships between police and the communities they serve.

The city of Fort Worth and its police department is one of six pilot cities where those relationships will be examined over the next three years.

The goal is to find what works and what doesn't and to test ways to improve bad relationships.

The first public input meeting took place Tuesday night at the Potter's House Fort Worth, as part of the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice. It's a program funded by a grant by the Department of Justice, where researchers and experts will look at cities police forces and how they interact with the community.

The program came out of the My Brother's Keeper Task Force which ended in May 2014, it was looking at ways to improve the lives of young men of color.

The national initiative will look at the best way to improve police and community relations, to build a model of sorts for the rest of the nation. It's a relationship that can often be contentious and confrontational in some communities, including just blocks from the Potter's House in Fort Worth.

"They don't want to talk to you, they don't want to get to know nobody," said Kendrick Moore. "They use to have a relationship with us and stop to talk to us. We got to know them, but now it's more like they don't want a relationship with us."

For others, the view of the relationship with police can be even more contentious.

"I don't feel like they're here to protect us, that they're here against us," said Brittany Stevenson.

The national initiative will look at implicit bias, reconciliation and procedural justice, says Interim Police Chief Rhonda Robertson. It's a way of studying the problem between some communities and police and finding ways to improve that relationship.

"Sometimes you have to look in the mirror and identify what's wrong and take a good hard look at yourself before you can move forward and I think this is going to help us do that," Chief Robertson said.

Fort Worth is one of six cities that will be studied. Fort Worth Police says it has good relations with most sectors of the community, some stronger than others, but that there's always room for improvement and that's what they hope to get out of this study.

"It would be nice to have researchers come in actually assess the state of our relationships in various areas," Chief Robertson said.

In the end, the researchers will issue recommendations from and for Fort Worth, and other cities to implement if they so choose.

The department sees it as a great opportunity to improve.

"We'll be the recipients of all this research and recommendations," Chief Robertson said.

But at least some in the community remain skeptical.

"I think it's unfixable to be honest with you," Moore said.

Fort Worth Police did not attend the public input meeting so that researchers can freely hear from the community.

But Fort Worth Police and the Police Officers' Association are fully behind the study.

The other five cities being studied are Birmingham, Ala., Pittsburgh, Penn., Stockton, Calif., Minneapolis and Gary, Ind.

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