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Police Conduct & Racial Tension Conversations Continue Thanks to Funding from Common Council

Syracuse police will be able to continue a series of events to ease tensions over police-community relations seen in uprisings across the nation.  The department has teamed up with InterFaithWorks of C-N-Y for conversations in each area of the city.  President Beth Broadway says the Syracuse Police force demographically is mainly white…so policing in communities of color is critically important.

“That officers look at themselves, look at how they were raised, and that community members look at their attitudes toward police.  So this is a mutually beneficial conversation that breaks down a long-term historical tension between communities of color and the police department.”

Broadway cites a 30 to 40-percent change in how the community and the police department view each other after the meetings.  Director of the El-Hindi Center for Dialogue Peter Willner wants all voices at the table.

“The robustness of the conversation depends quite a bit on the diversity of the group.  And so a lot of the work we do is make sure each group is diverse, geographically, ethnically, racially, gender.”


And Syracuse has a particular interest to engage refugees in the area.  Braodway says tensions might come from experiences they had with police in their home countries – which might even be why they fled.

“They (police) have been the perpetrators of violence; they have worked on behalf of states that have ejected them (refugees) or been part of a civil war and so the trust level between the refugees and the police is often very, very low.  So it’s very important that we build that trusting relationship and not create additional problem generationally going forward.” 

The SyracuseCommon Council approved a 30-thousand dollar grant to continue the events.  Councilor Khalid Bey knows the conversations are not a solution to all police conduct issues.

“We’re not impractical.  We don’t expect any kind of super change overnight.  But I think the potential for change here exists.” 

InterFaith Works currently is enrolling people for the discussions. Information is at the group’s website or at 449-3552.  

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at