Efforts to build better police and community relations

COLUMBUS, Ga. — In the wake of many police controversies across the US, multiple people are coming together to familiarize the community with their rights.

An annual forum wrapped up Thursday night. It was all part of Re-entry Awareness Month. Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman, attorneys and also local activist Waleisah Wilson all talked briefly about rights. But they spent more time touching on very sensitive issues involving police, including those that live right here in the valley.

“When you see one single officer hugging an individual embracing them that’s the image of public safety we all want in our mind,” says Teddy Reese.

That’s Teddy Reese responding to a picture that was shown during the second annual Know Your Rights forum Thursday evening. Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman provided a photo to us, a white officer embracing a black woman, and on the right, a black person being held up by multiple armed authorities.

“Here it appears there may have been some really really dangerous things happening here and people were put in a situation and told go take care of this job,” says Kenneth O’Shields.

That’s Kenneth O’Shields responding to the right side of the photo. He provides active shooter safety training in the valley. Both Reese and O’Shields, then start up a debate.

“The attitude on the right wouldn’t work over here or vice versa,” says O’Shields.

“Right..but somebody felt comfortable enough to take the picture so clearly it couldn’t been that hostile.” says Reese.

“Everybody takes pictures,” says O’Shields.

Most everyone agreed, many police do not feel comfortable going into select areas. In an effort to make authorities feel more comfortable, Greg Countryman requires his staff to practice community policing.

“We have to go out and engage and speak with at least three citizens every day, get their names, write it down on their daily log. Our job is to protect and serve. If we’re gonna protect someone we need to know who it is we’re protecting. If we’re gonna serve someone we need to know who it is we are serving,” says Marshal Greg Countryman.

News 3 caught up with about five people after the meeting: organizers and attendees. Every one told us they thought the talks Thursday night were hard discussions to have, but they say- the talks were also conversations that needed to be had.

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