EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) — In an effort to address what some are calling a racial divide between the public and police, one group held a community forum tonight to address social issues and perceived problems.
The meeting was originally scheduled to take place last month, but was rescheduled for September 3rd.
Those who organized the meeting called “Face to Face” say the idea for it came after members of the community voiced concerns with the way Evansville Police Officers responded to an altercation involving a 14-year-old boy on a school bus.
One of the biggest topics of conversation was that EPD was not present at the meeting. The meeting’s organizer Reverend William Payne, told Eyewitness News EPD had been invited but a Facebook post from Payne account says EPD was not expected to attend.
Payne says the purpose of the meeting was to address the public’s concerns and form a committee. The committee would act as representatives of the public and they could contact the police department and the Mayor’s office about issues of social injustice.
“This last particular incident that we were talking about with the 14-year-old, we felt that it was now the time for us to start addressing the issues that the community felt were being overlooked,” said Payne.
After the meeting I asked EPD’s Sgt. Jason Cullum why police were not present at tonight’s meeting. His full statement is as follows:
“In the days after the arrest that served as the catalyst for tonight’s meeting, Chief Bolin invited several community members, including William Payne to a meeting to discuss the incident. Chief Bolin expressed his desire to have an open, honest dialogue, free of TV cameras and outside agitators. While details of the meeting were being arranged, the public meeting was scheduled and then rescheduled. The Evansville Police Department was never asked to attend the community meeting on either of the scheduled dates. On August 15th, William Payne informed the public via Facebook that the police were not going to be at the meeting. He further stated that “We need to get our own community together” and “This is about us”. Based on the lack of an invitation and Reverend Payne’s social media post, this meeting was not held with the goal of an EPD presence. As such, we will not defend our absence. Chief Bolin has recently met with Reverend Payne and discussed community concerns. In keeping with his commitment to transparency, Chief Bolin will keep the lines of communication open.”
Moving forward, both Rev. Payne and Sgt. Cullum said they will work to keep open lines of communication between members of the public and the police department.
(This story was originally published on September 3, 2019)