County Connections: Police department and NAACP look to open doors of communication in Henderson

09/27/2017 11:19 AM

HENDERSON – Henderson Police Chief Chip Stauffer and Deborah Jackson Hoda, president of the Henderson NAACP, facilitated a forum on Monday, September 18 to talk about concerns and questions local residents have about community policing.

Hoda felt that the meeting was worthwhile and an effort to keep both sides in communication with one another, and avoid the conflicts that have been seen around the country.

One of Hoda’s biggest concerns is the fact that youths have so little to do in the community.

“In a smaller town like this, when I was coming up, we had the pool, we had the center, we had dances, we had neighborhood games and so forth, but the kids now don’t have anything,” Hoda said.

Stauffer says that one of his biggest goals has been to form relationships with folks in the community, and his department has done that on many occasions.

He also believes that now is the time to form those relationships, not when a major negative incident happens.

“When there are no crises and there are no issues, you have to do it then,” Stauffer said. “When the flood comes, you can’t build a bridge. You have to build the bridge before the flood, and that’s the idea behind it — let’s have these conversations, let’s get together, so when something happens in our community you will have the confidence and trust in the police department.”

Hoda says that while the relationship between the African American community and the Henderson Police Department is not as bad as in some major cities, but it could still be better, especially in the area of officers truly knowing the people in the community that they serve.

“Some of the policemen seem to influx from different cities,” Hoda said. “If we continue with this type of situation, maybe some of the policeman could come in and be a big sister, big brother, type of situation. Sometimes, kids just need someone to talk to.”

One area which frustrates Stauffer is having community members understand the full process and procedure when it comes to law enforcement.

“The biggest challenge to me is for community members to understand the process that are in place,” Stauffer said. “Often times, people get concerned about why police officers and why police departments do certain things and it’s because there are state laws that we have to follow. It’s not that the Henderson Police Department or the city of Henderson is dictating what has to be done, these are state laws that we have to follow.”

Other discussion concerned the lack of job fairs and employment opportunities in the city for youths, and the fact that only five African American officers out of 60 on the force.

Both sides are hopeful that more summits will be held in the future.


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