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Police Respond To Criticism At NAACP Event

WUIS/Rachel Otwell

Racial tension and profiling by police were among the topics discussed at a community meeting held at Southeast High School in Springfield on Thursday. Over 300 people were in attendance for the meeting put on by the local chapter of the NAACP. It was organized as a response to the situation in Ferguson, Missouri where an unarmed black teen was shot and killed by a police officer. One common refrain was that blacks in Springfield often feel targeted by police simply because of their skin color.

Local police chief Kenny Winslow told the crowd that better communication is needed. "Part of our issue or what we need to do a better job of as a police department is engaging the community and strengthening those relationships. We do have some of them out there but we need more. For me it's all about effective communication, it's about understanding, it's about trust. And it's a 2-way street, the police department can't do it alone. When we talk about about police/community relations it has to work both ways,” said Winslow.

Concern was voiced at the meeting that there needs to be a larger minority presence on the police force. Currently about 4% of city police are African American. Another meeting similar to last night's is scheduled for November 13th.

Rachel Otwell of the Illinois Times is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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