ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — On Tuesday, police officers and a handful of young black people from the Rochester area met at Aquinas Institute to have some very honest conversations about police and community relations.
They took this opportunity to see things from each other’s perspective. Some said they learned a lot, but one common theme is learning to see each other as people.
“It’s not black versus white it’s right versus wrong and now we’re starting to build that comfortability, like you’re human,” Simeon Heard said.
Heard said he’s always been nervous around police officers. On Tuesday, he was able to tell officers like NYS policeman Jason Klewicki why he’s afraid.
“A few of them talked about what they think when they see police, ‘oh I can’t be out past 10 p.m. once it gets dark, I’ve got to get home, oh I can’t have my hoodie up.’ Those are things that never crossed my mind,” said Klewicki.
Karen and Gerard Iglesia and their son Anthony organized the round table discussion. Tyree Jones said he’s always felt uncomfortable around police and he has an idea to help fix that.
“I definitely want them instead of asking me ‘what’s going on’ I want them to ask me how my day’s going, I want them to make me feel comfortable as a friend,” said Jones.
Rochester Police Department Lieutenant Jeff LaFave said this is about empathy and a chance to really make a change.
“This is an opportunity for us now to build and to fix and take a look at things from a different perspective. Everybody has their own set of values and I think where we’re struggling right now is we’re not looking at it from the lens of the other person,” said LaFave.
The Iglesia family hopes this is the first of many conversations between black families and the police. Karen said she plans to invite parents to the next one and have larger groups once our region enters Phase Four of reopening.