SAN ANTONIO - The public on Tuesday finally got a view inside Mayor Ivy Taylor's new Council on Police-Community Relations. Many people were excited to attend the first open meeting, where the council asked questions and brainstormed ideas in a joined effort to bring more peace and communication to San Antonio.
East Side Pastor Royce Sullivan was a fly on the wall.
"I feel real good about it," he said, about the new council.
Sullivan admitted that he was first skeptical when the group was formed, thinking it would be made up mostly of city officials and wouldn't represent neighborhoods like his own.
"Looking at it and seeing that there's actually a different crew of community support in the room, there's a different group of East Side leadership in the room that I know have been grafted and rooted in that part of town," Sullivan said.
Sullivan listened to an hour of questions from the 30-person council, all aimed at the city's top cop, Chief William McManus.
Some asked about what incentives were given to hire officers within the community. Others wondered what type of help officers had access to if they went through a trauma or had mental health issues. The members poured over a list of San Antonio Police Department policies that have been updated over the years.
The point of these questions were for the new council to be fully educated on the police system before coming up with new recommendations for the police and the community.
The most popular question asked at the meeting was about de-escalation training.
"There are lives that have been lost and those people feel like there have been some injustices on the San Antonio Police Department's side. We can't side-step that, but we know that is not the intention or the heart of the San Antonio police community," council member Pastor Keely Petty said.
Petty was invited to be on the council because of her work on East Side drug prevention. Her organization is called Bethel Prevention Coalition.
"We have a large number of crime(s) and murder. The 78218 ZIP code, it's constant crime, constant shooting, constant drug dealing, so it's important that we are here to represent that community but also partner with the Police Department," she said.
Petty and every other member submitted one idea at the meeting. Others suggested things like more frequent police training or safe ways for police to report bad internal behavior.
Petty asked for more foot officers throughout communities of violence.
"Reaching, touching and imparting life on those communities, talking to them, building a relationship," she said about things that are needed.
Though the public was allowed at tonight's meeting, they were not allowed to ask questions. They were only able to write questions down and submit them to be answered later.
Mayor Taylor explained the point of this meeting was to hear questions and ideas from people who will eventually make recommendations. She did say there may be another type of town-hall style meeting in the future where the public can speak too.
Sullivan said he was OK with this format, He was just glad to be able to listen to what was being said and believes San Antonio needs a big shift in communication.
"Let's just get back to being our organic 'How can I work with you? How can we begin to be a community?' We can fill a room, but community means there has to be a communication to piece the unity together," he said.
Sullivan said he believes with such a diverse group willing to cooperate and be honest, change is possible.
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