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City of Syracuse looks to restart dialogues between the community and police

The City of Syracuse is looking to partner with InterFaith Works to restart a series of police-community dialogues next year.  It’s the latest effort to provide a bridge between officers and the residents they serve.

These dialogues have been taking place on and off with Syracuse Police and other agencies for 20 years. InterFaith works President and CEO Beth Broadway says the city reached out and asked them if they had the capacity to develop a program. She says previous dialogues have proven effective at clearing up misunderstandings around the role of police when there might be an altercation.

"Police officers leaning into neighborhoods in different ways, caring about the lives of residents. Residents understanding at a deeper level what it means to be a police officer," Broadway said. "We've had situations where a resident and an officer have been in a dialogue together, and there's a confrontation or arrest in their neighborhood, they go better because there is a relationship rather than people seeing each other in just their role."

Broadway says the dialogues have helped police and residents understand each other as humans, which allows them to see beyond the conflict. Before the next round of dialogues begins, Director of the El-Hindi Center of Dialogue and Action Bishop Colette Matthews-Carter says she plans to organize a community focus group in each quadrant of the city to gather baseline information.

"We'll pull together community stakeholders and shareholders, faith leaders, community residents to talk about their historic perspectives about the relationship between the police and the community, as well as what they hope to achieve or get out of the dialogues. Through that process, we hope to reframe the actual dialogues themselves," Matthews-Carter said.

The goal of the dialogues is multi-faceted. Beth Broadway says they aim to familiarize New Americans who’ve come from other countries where the relationship with police has been strained at best. And, she says, to mend the long history of tension, real or perceived, between black and brown communities.

"The police really are here to serve, and the people in the neighborhood want safety, so people have similar goals around what they want to do," Broadway said. "But it's the misunderstandings and the bad relationship that get in the way of our being able to meet those common goals together. The dialogues are a bridge."

Common councilors are expected to approve the contract with InterFaith Works at today’s meeting. The community focus groups are scheduled to begin early next year.

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