Dezmion Barrow recounted Monday night how unnerved he had been when a Baton Rouge Police officer pulled him over in Perkins Rowe during the holiday season.
Barrow was one of many who shared his experience and his worries about Baton Rouge police and community relations while Louisiana Public Broadcasting taped a segment to air Wednesday called "Black and the Blue." The taping was held Monday night at Star Hill Baptist Church.
Barrow said he had been dressed up, driving a new car and following the laws of traffic when the officer pulled him over.
"My heart is literally racing at this moment because I'm, like, this is about to be real," he told the 150 or so audience members. The officer asked to see his license and registration and let him go, but the aggression the officer showed stuck with Barrow, who is black.
Barrow asked a panel of local leaders at the taping what can "realistically be done" to hold police officers more accountable and to lower their levels of aggression in non-life-threatening situations, earning a round of applause from the audience.
Darrell Basco, state president of Fraternal Order of Police and a panelist, said older and more experienced supervisors need to coach their officers to realize that criminals are not lurking around every corner. But he also said police now are under constant pressure with stories, videos and narratives emerging minute by minute through social media about sour relationships between police and the communities they are sworn to protect.
Other panelists included Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome; state Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge; the Rev. Richard Andrus from St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, and Baton Rouge Business Report editor Stephanie Riegel.
Throughout the taping, residents chosen by moderators Bob Mann of LSU and Robyn Merrick with Southern University told of concerns similar to Barrow's.
Yolanda Freeman said she begged her daughter not to go to the protests in July after a Baton Rouge Police officer shot and killed Alton Sterling. Freeman said she was worried about what would happen, and her daughter — whom Freeman said was peacefully protesting — was arrested along with more than 100 others for obstructing a roadway, though the charges were later dropped.
Freeman asked how Baton Rouge's leaders could ensure that peaceful protesters would not be arrested a second time after the U.S. Department of Justice releases the results of its ongoing investigation into Sterling's death.
Broome said she has not received any notice about when DOJ will release its findings.
State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said Thursday he's asked for and expects two …
The mayor-president indicated her desire is for police to work with protesters in the future, calling peaceful protest "part of the American way." She reminded the audience she was not the mayor-president in July, when officers took direction from the administration of then-Mayor-President Kip Holden.
Holden frequently aligned himself with the police department, but Broome has been promoting police policy changes since the beginning of her mayoral campaign.
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome announced the reworking of the Baton Rouge Police Depar…
While Broome has preached the need for racial unity, Allison Smith asked how the community can become racially healed when BRPD itself is racially divided.
After a gunman shot and killed Baton Rouge Police Cpl. Montrell Jackson, Officer Matthew Gerald and Sheriff's Deputy Brad Garafola in July, a Facebook post from Jackson went viral. Smith pointed out that most people clung to Jackson's advice: "Don't let hate infect your heart."
But she said many glossed over other comments from the black police officer: "In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat." Smith pointed out that black and white police officers even belong to different police associations.
Basco acknowledged the racial divides, saying his organization has tried to bring the officers under one roof but they could do a better job of trying to bring together the organizations.
Throughout the night, James reiterated the need for change from police if the department is asking for change from the community. He referenced a push to have police officers in driver's education classes to teach future drivers about how to react when being pulled over by police. James said he likes the idea, but it is not enough unless police officers are also learning how to respectfully address those whom they are pulling over.
James also said he's grateful for the many meetings and listening sessions that have happened since Sterling's killing. He said those sessions gave him a better ability to pursue meaningful changes instead of knee-jerk reactions.
"Having benefitted from listening and sitting across the table from police officers, a lot of things I felt in July, I don't feel the same way today," James said.
The "Louisiana Public Square" hour-long segment will air at 7 p.m. Wednesday on LPB and in New Orleans on WLAE.
Chad Montgomery knew it wasn't a normal Sunday when he showed up at 6 a.m. for his patrol wi…
During her hard-fought election campaign, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome repeatedly pr…