Panel Discusses Building Trust With Phila. Law, Government, Schools

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – How can we make Philadelphia a more peaceful city?

That was the topic of the Restoring Trust Through Grassroots Peacemaking symposium Thursday night at in Center City.

The forum focused on ways to repair trust between the community and law enforcement, government, education and the criminal justice system.

It was moderated by Diversified Community Services executive director Otis Bullock.

“We have a group of panelists resenting government and the community,” he explains. “We think it’s a great opportunity to begin peaceful dialogues on how these constituencies can work together to bring about peace, mitigate violence and also prevent crime.”

Among the panelists was Philadelphia Police Lieutenant D.F Pace.

“Anytime the community and members of government can come together,” he says, “in this kind of setting where we can talk about issues in a civil manner and in a way where we’re actually looking to generate solutions, it’s always a positive exercise.”

He says the PPD is always looking to build stronger relationships:

“The police department is doing everything it possibly can to sure up the bonds that make community police relations as strong as they possible can be so we can work together to achieve a peaceful community everyone can live in and thrive in.”

He says learning from each other is a must to achieve this, adding the most powerful tool an officer has isn’t around their waist…it’s their mouth and how they communicate.

He also believes making an arrest should be a last resort, and difference between police and the community should be celebrated, not criticized.

Also on the panel…Chief of Staff for Philadelphia Criminal Justice Julie Wertheimer, who says they are working on a stronger pre arrest diversion program:

“Rather than arresting an individual who is suffering from drug addiction or behavioral health issues, it gives police the tools to refer them immediately to treatment.”

She says by not putting people in jail who don’t need to be there, the hope is that will also strengthen trust between police and the community.

Rounding out the panel were education consultant Brendon Jobs and student activist Shahmar Beasley, who suggested decriminalizing the school system.

The event was part of Peace Day Philly.

More from Andrew Kramer

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