Community initiative to bridge the gap between law enforcement, community

Cassie Buchman, City Editor

The Charleston Police Department will attempt to ease the tense relations between police officers and the community with simulations and informational sessions at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Charleston Range and Training Center.

Charleston Detective Marlon Williams said the initiative is happening because of the disconnect between law enforcement and the community at large.

“Even before recent events, there was a disconnect,” Williams said.

He said the initiative was created to bridge the gap and bring cohesion to the community and police.

The initiative will take place in three sessions for Eastern students and community members. It will take participants through exercises and discussions on the role of law enforcement and how they react to certain situations.

The police officers at the initiative will take three attendees through different sessions that give a first-person perspective to the situations police officers go through daily.

Williams said details about the sessions are being kept secret to simulate the unpredictability of a police officer’s job.

“You never know what you will deal with,” he said. “We want to give them that sense of surprise when they get there.”

The idea for the initiative came from a similar one Williams saw happen in Arizona when he was searching on the Internet.

“They did the three sessions to see why officers react to certain situations,” he said.

Williams said the initiative was created to end misconceptions the public might have about law enforcement.

“It’s not an us versus them kind of thing,” he said. “This will help them see what the police go though on a daily basis.”

Some of the things officers might see on a daily basis include some routine traffic stops, domestic violence calls, looking for suspicious persons involved in robbery or other crimes, or disorderly conduct calls where someone causes a scene.

“You just never know when it could escalate,” Williams said. “An officer always has to be on alert. The community will be shown how quick things could happen.”

Williams said one reason for the disconnect was events that happened nationally.

“With social media, information gets disseminated, people react based on emotions,” Williams said. “Not that their feelings are not warranted, but people should look at an entire situation before rushing to decisions. We understand things happen that should not.”

This is the first time the Charleston Police Department has enacted an initiative like this.

“The main objective is for this to be a foundation of trust and understanding between the police department, University Police Department and community,” Williams said. “We’re basically establishing a relationship between Charleston, EIU and law enforcement.”

Although it will just be the CPD at the first bridge the gap initiative, Williams said he hopes UPD and others will be involved in future ones.

“We want to have several throughout the year, although the school year is closing, so we still only have one until the end of school,” Williams said. “We would love to have three or four during the year as the program builds.”

He wants people to have a better understanding as to why law enforcement makes the decisions it does.

“Hopefully this is the beginning of a relationship,” Williams said.


Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]