By Louise Scott, Gary Crusader
Due to the numerous altercations that have taken place around the country involving police officers and individuals, the New Tabernacle Baptist Church—along with various police authorities—are collaborating to make a change.
A forum aimed at enlightening the community on the proper attitude and behavior when confronted with police authority was recently held at New Tabernacle.
Rev. Chet Johnson, pastor of New Tabernacle, invited police divisions from throughout the area to meet not only young people, but adults as well, to discuss the issue of proper response to police.
Members of law enforcement who participated in the forum included: Gary Police Chief Larry McKinley; Gary Police Commission President Oliver Gilliam; Lake County Sheriff John Buncich; Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter; members from the East Chicago Police Department; Commander George Cossey; and Lt. Hosea Rivera.
In addition, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and Assistant Lake County Prosecutor James Dillion, who was the facilitator, were also in attendance.
Other officials participating included law enforcement, who are also members of the New Tabernacle Church; Lake County Police Officer Antoine Jakes; David Marshall; Gary Police Officer Simone Lillie; retired East Chicago Police Officer Michael Smith; retired Lake County Police Officer Jennifer Jenkins; and Code Enforcement Officer Edward Smith.
Some of the 80 participants asked what should be the proper response when stopped by the police and what rights do victims have. Officers responded by stating that their instructions should be followed, and if someone feels that their rights have been violated, to file a complaint with the police commission.
In one incident, Chief McKinley said he was in a confrontation while in casual attire and was not recognized by the officer. He, too, said the officer behaved in an unprofessional manner until he knew who he had stopped.
Rivera said, “When stopped by police, behave as if the policeman was a family member, and the policeman should act as if the person they stopped was their family member.”
Johnson said they would like to partner with the school system to mandate an assembly where they could come together and engage in this type of discussion with all students.
“This was recommended by all of the panelists to take this beyond the session where it will reach as many people as possible where they would be educated on how to handle situations they might find themselves in.”