BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Recent high profile cases have highlighted the strained relations between law enforcement and the public. A Buffalo organization is now working to open dialogue with police.
“There was just a need for the community to be heard,” said Shareef Ali II, with Open Buffalo’s Justice and Opportunity Table. “Call people to action so we are not the next victims of what’s been going around nationwide.”
Open Buffalo is getting ready to hand out about 2,000 surveys to people living in every neighborhood in the city.
“The goal is to through all of the parts of the city to get everyone’s input so we can give it to the City of Buffalo and let them know this is how the community feels about the Buffalo Police Department,” said Ali.
Community organizations and some Buffalo Police officers helped the group come up with more than 50 questions. Open Buffalo narrowed it down to about 25 questions.
“What’s your interaction with your police? What do you feel about the police department? Do you respect them? Do you feel they respect you? Do you think they respect youth?” said Ali.
They’re training dozens of people to distribute the surveys to their workplaces, churches and community organizations. Open Buffalo also asked the volunteers how they perceive the Buffalo Police Department.
“Most of our people have trust issues with their police department,” said Ali.
Fruitbelt resident Dennice Barr said she wants to take part because she’s seen injustice first hand. She said one of her sons had a bad encounter with Buffalo Police.
“We didn’t get a proper response to that situation,” said Barr. “I tried to deal with my son and he understands you have to respect authority but it’s always going to be a question of whether he trusts police or not.”
She told News 4 she’s especially worried about African American youth.
“I’m worried about the kids who are afraid to say anything,” said Barr. “The kids that have been scared to say anything so they just take it like it’s a normal situation and it’s something they have to adapt to. That’s scary.”
Other volunteers have concerns about discrimination based on age, gender and sexual orientation.
They hope this survey will help identify what issues exist.
“This is historical, this is the first of its kind,” said Ali. “Buffalo has never seen this, the nation has never seen this . We want to be those trendsetters and change-makers in our own community. Hopefully other parts of the nation can look at Buffalo and say these are best practices we can adopt in our city.”
The group plans to have the surveys completed by May, then they will present their findings to Buffalo Police.
For information on how to participate contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or (716) 243-8777.