WICOMICO CO., - In the month of March alone, there were two incidents in Wicomico County that involved a law enforcement injury, and officers having to use force as a response.
It's two of many reasons that hundreds gathered at the First Baptist Church in Salisbury on Monday night to address how the county can improve their relationship with police.
"There's mistrust with people with people we feel are supposed to trust," says Reverend Lewis Watson with the First Baptist Church. "We want to be transparent and we're asking for help, that's why we've brought them together, we want help we want them to give us direction."
Local African American clergymen have been meeting with law enforcement and city leaders to discuss exactly how to forge that bond. They took their first step by inviting the public to a community forum on Monday, with a number of city leaders, including representatives from the Salisbury Police Department, Wicomico County Sheriff's Office, NAACP, and more to speak and answer questions.
Reverend Watson says recent crimes have made the conversation more necessary than ever.
"The law enforcement officers need to hear what they have to say, they need to know what's going on, I don't really know if they know the seriousness of what's going on with many of the citizens of Salisbury," he says. "If we can understand what to do, what steps we need to take, and then the police know what is expected of us, I think we can get along."
A big part of that understanding surrounds a major concern of racial profiling. City officials answered questions about citizens' rights, and explained what residents should do if they feel their rights have been violated, and steps they can take after.
"You have to know your rights as citizens, you have to know there's a constitution, what the fourth, fifth, sixth amendments are," says Matt Maciarello, state's attorney for Wicomico County. "You have to participate as citizens in the whole process.
Sheree Sample-Hughes, a Wicomico County councilwoman says the meeting is the first of many future discussions and potential workshops to keep the public educated. However, for those to be completely effective, the trust factor needs to kick in first.
"I know that the trust is not there fully," says Maciarello. "We need to work together we need to build bridges and build trust."
"Crime fighting involves your participation," says Chief Barbara Duncan, with the Salisbury Police Department. "If we don't have the input from you then the criminal element wins."
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Monday, September 1 2014 7:04 PM EDT2014-09-01 23:04:31 GMT
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