Let the healing begin: Faith Center hosts discussion on police, race relations
By Susannah Bryan
If you're stopped by a bad cop, can you call 911?
That was just one of the tough questions asked Thursday night during a "Hope and Healing" town hall meeting co-hosted by Broward Sheriff Scott Israel and Faith Center Bishop Henry Fernandez.
More than 500 people flocked to the Faith Center to hear from an 18-member panel that included U.S. Rep Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Broward Mayor Marty Kiar and Sunrise Police Chief John Brooks.
The crowd asked about everything from body cameras to the best way to handle a mean cop during a traffic stop.
Attorney George Odom took the question on whether you can call 911 to report the officer.
"That's probably not a good idea," he said. "The best thing you can do is comply, comply and comply. And if all else fails, comply."
The sheriff touched on the importance of being polite to the police but also apologized for the behavior of some cops.
"We in law enforcement don't do everything perfect," he said. "We make mistakes. We need to get better. But the Bible also tells us to respect authority. And we have to do that, too."
Henry, a bishop at the Faith Center, shared a story about a deputy throwing a ticket in his face years ago.
Israel apologized on behalf of the deputy and said body cameras are coming to the Sheriff's Office. By next year, every deputy who interacts with the public will be wearing a body camera, he promised.
"You need to know what's going on out there and I need to know what's going on out there," Israel said.
Body cameras are coming to Sunrise, too.
"Body cameras are a thing of the future," Brooks said. "There's no mistake about it."
But trust and understanding have to be earned, Satz said.
"You can't legislate it and you can't demand it," he said. "Some good things are happening. I think the police chiefs and the sheriff really care about the lack of trust."
Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, a pastor from Missouri and member of the panel, told the crowd such a town hall meeting was rare.
"In many cities around the country, you couldn't even have this kind of gathering," he said. "You're way ahead of a lot of other cities. This is a serious problem. You're dealing with it in a way that no one else around the country seems to be."
Chelsea Liverpool, 23, of Coral Springs, said she came with her mom and sister to hear what can be done to make things better.
"I think we should all get along as people and not antagonize each other," she said. "We're still cool with the cops. It's just some of them are shooting people for no reason."
Dania Beach resident Anita Jackson said she hopes the town hall meeting leads to more love and understanding between the police and the people they serve.
"We need some healing," she said. "We need some conversation, to get some dialogue going."
Fernandez told the Sun Sentinel he came up with the idea for the event soon after officers were gunned down by a sniper in Dallas during a peaceful protest last month.
"Protesting alone is not going to solve the problem," he said. "We've done that and it's brought more negativity in our community. There is no way there can be a peaceful resolution to the issue without the faith community."
Fernandez ended the spirited event with a prayer for unity.
"We all deserve to be treated with respect and dignity," he said.
Police chiefs from several agencies, from Davie to Fort Lauderdale to Wilton Manors, were listening.