The Sarasota County Branch NAACP Wednesday will host a community conversation with Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino and other law enforcement officers in response to the police killings of black men Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and the killing of five Dallas police officers during a peaceful protest.
The fatal shootings occurred over a span of three days last week.
“It was our idea to have the meeting as a stakeholder in the community, just wanting to bring everybody together to sit down and have a fruitful conversation of what we can do in Sarasota to continue to build positive relationship with law enforcement,” said Trevor D. Harvey, president of the Sarasota NAACP. “And to make sure that issues that have happened elsewhere do not happen in Sarasota.”
The informal event will be held from 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. at Bethel Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church, 1719 22nd Street, Sarasota.
“This past week has been a roller coaster for me. It’s been a roller coaster ride from several different perspectives that words can’t even really express,” Harvey said. “I just know that I’m sad, I’m hurt, I’m distraught... what has occurred over this past week and a half you really just can’t put into words.”
The three recent incidents have made national and international headlines, sparking the latest round in conversations surrounding police brutality,. Harvey said the incidents are all inexcusable.
“What happened in Baton Rouge is inexcusable. What happened in Minnesota is inexcusable,” he said. “What happened in Dallas is inexcusable.”
DiPino said she believes that, as long as law enforcement and others have a dialogue, they can help keep the community safe. She said the incidents last week hit her personally, especially having a daughter who is a police officer in Baltimore and having many friends in law enforcement.
“I was so proud to hear of some of the stories of what officers did in Dallas... I put on my uniform with my badge and go to work and continue to do the good things that we’re doing every single day. I think that’s the way we honor our fallen comrades,” DiPino said. “I’ve had members of our community calling me, hugging me. There’s a lot of outpouring of support, which helps police carry on - to know we’re appreciated. I think that’s the thing we look for the most, to know that our community cares about us and I think that’s what we’re going to find Wednesday.”
Manatee County NAACP President Rodney Jones said his chapter has an executive board meeting Tuesday, where they will decide whether to organize an event in response to the recent incidents.
“To be be honest, conversations over the years — whether they be town hall meetings or community dialogues — have proven to be very ineffective and, if they were effective, we wouldn’t be in the situation that we are in today,” he told a Herald reporter Monday afternoon. “It’s a sentiment from the community: we are tired of talking. I’m not saying dialogue isn’t necessary, but it’s 2016 and we’re still talking. Conditions really haven’t improved. We still have major issues. People don’t want to admit it, but we have major issues with race and now we even have a class issue with the poor.”