Policing in Pompano Beach: A community speaks
By Nichole Richards
Just days after the murder of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards in Balch Springs, Texas, a community had a rare chance to come face to face with an element of society that has played an integral role in shaping the Black experience in America. Emboldened by Jordan’s unjust death and still ignited by the September 2016 slaughter of Gregory Frazier, a Pompano Beach resident killed sitting in his own backyard, the Black Pompano Community demanded acknowledgement of the “quick to kill”, racially discriminatory culture of the Pompano Beach branch of the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
Held on May 3, 2017 at the E. Pat Larkins Community Center, the Northwest Pompano Empowerment Meeting aimed to encourage conversation on safety concerns between two entities historically distrustful of each other. Unsurprisingly, the conversation revealed a shattered relationship between the general community and police, with accusations of over-policing and racial prejudices.
Attendees complained of the oversaturation of police presence west of Dixie Highway versus east, which is largely middle class and White, and the mistreatment of Black residents at the hands of young, improperly trained officers. Moreover, attendees accused officers of lacking the skills to diffuse critical situations, preferring aggression and violence.
“When I [became Sheriff], there were only 150 officers wearing CIT pins,” Sheriff Scott Israel stated, referencing BSO’s Crisis Intervention Training course, “The number of CIT trained deputies has increased dramatically.”
This has not decreased the amount of negative interactions between the police and community. One by one audience members recounted personal stories of mistreatment during traffic stops, at their own businesses, and while socializing at the park. Each experience left them feeling intimidated and belittled.
“If we want to really change the conditions of our community, there needs to be a different approach.” stated a community member concerning police aggression and intimidation.
But what exactly are the community’s expectations of their police? How can the Black community and police personnel move forward and reach across the aisle to form partnerships built on mutual respect?
There are examples of successful community partnerships with police that have attempted to heal strained community relations. BSO Pompano has collaborated with many organizations and churches, sponsoring large community events and attempting to form personal relationships with community members.
“I have had a good relationship with BSO,” said Pas-tor Eddy Moise, Jr of Bethel AME Church in Pompano Beach, “We have to start thinking about solutions. Having a relationship with BSO will help.”
Others felt the only way to ensure proper treatment by police was infiltration of the police force by the community’s own capable members.
“Encourage your intelligent cousins and neighbors to become police officers,” an audience member passionately suggested.
Still, the Black Pompano Beach community feels un-heard and under a questionable amount of unbalanced surveillance. The death of Gregory Frazier, which has been turned over to external bodies for investigation, continues to raise feelings of uneasiness and distrust.
“How can we ensure something like this can’t happen again?” asked District 4 Commissioner, Beverly Perkins, about Frazier’s death.
“I can’t make that guarantee.” responded Sheriff Israel, “As long as the human element is there, it will be a possibility.”