Community forum held on police brutality with goal of bringing police, community closer together

By KBJR News 1

February 10, 2014 Updated Feb 10, 2014 at 11:47 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com)--- Community members came together tonight in Duluth for a public forum on two recent incidents of alleged police brutality.

Organizers say the goal is to create an action plan to help everyone feel safe with members of law enforcement, particularly people of color

First it was the case of Duluth Police Officer Richard Jouppi who was acquitted on charges of assault and disorderly conduct

Now Superior Police Officer George Gothner is accused of using excessive force and police brutality by Natasha Lancour, an African American woman, when he arrested her at Keyport liquor in early January.

"There's going to be fear and we really are disserving not only the victims of crime but our entire community when we cant absolutely promise that everybody is safe with these people to whom we give so much power," said Community Organizer Reyna Crow.

Nearly two dozen concerned community members showed up to Monday's event, including Scott Bol.

" I want to see a beloved community so I'm very concerned that we're not moving in that direction when we see these extreme cases of violence so let's trust the police, let's work the police, we have to have some way of showing that this is not representative of our community," said Scot Bol.

Leiutenant Leigh Wright with the Duluth Police Department responded to people's concerns.

"We don't always agree, you know on how police matters with the community should be handled but I think that we're in a really great place to have those kinds of open and honest discussions," said Lieutenant Wright.

In light of both incidents, we spoke with Scott Lyons, a Law Enforcement Training Coordinator and former Duluth Police Chief on the perception of officers using force on people of color.

"I haven't seen it in my career and I've trained now in my career probably close to one thousand men and women including a lot of students of color and I don't see it," said Lyons.

Lyons says he does believe that some officers have an issue with temper and tend to over react in situations when their buttons are pushed.

Lyons would like to see more dialogue between police and the community.

"I wish that communities and especially this community, both Duluth and Superior could sit down and discuss what it is police officers do, how they do it, how they act, how they over react, or under react in situations and everybody step back and take a deep breath and look at what these incidents are," said Lyons.

The group plans to hold a meeting once a month and hopes both Police Departments and the Mayors get involved.

Written and posted to the web by Raeanna Marnati