By Alyssa Schnugg
Ideas on how to keep conversations on police brutality going were plentiful Tuesday when city officials, law enforcement leaders and community members joined a Zoom call to talk about how to keep Oxford ahead of the issue.
The online meeting was sponsored by the newly created Conversations for Change group that was formed recently by University of Mississippi student Klaria Holmes.
“It’s a new organization dedicated to starting community-wide conversations about local and important events that affect us,” Holmes said.
Holmes said the idea for the group came about due to the recent events in Minneapolis, involving the death of George Floyd who was killed by Derek Chauvin, a now-former police officer, knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes.
It was the second Zoom meeting this month on the topic.
Speakers included Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill, Police Chief Jeff McCutchen, Lafayette County Sheriff Joey East, Pastor Alfred Hall and Alderman Kesha Howell Atkinson.
The group discussed several ideas on how to bring about change including forming a community advisory board – to provide feedback and accountability, share information and increase communications.
“We want to have ongoing communication and not to just react to specific incidents and events,” Hall said. “The advisory board could come together with law enforcement officials, city and county leadership and an advisory group of diverse community members … Through ongoing dialogue, we can begin to identify problems and work toward solutions before things build to where they erupt and we’re back to just reacting.”
Other topics discussed in the possible need for more training for law enforcement and redirecting funds for more mental health options for officers, de-escalation and diversity training.
Tannehill said the city would be open to forming an advisory board.
“And I think this is exactly how we affect change, is by coming together and having conversations,” Tannehill said.
McCutchen said providing services to officers that reduce stress is a constant goal for OPD.
“I feel if we can reduce their stress, then I feel our one-on-one interactions will be on point,” he said.
East took over as sheriff in January and said he is looking at ways to incorporate more training opportunities for his deputies.
“We have a new foundation and we’re preparing to go forward,” East said.
Watch the entire conversation on the Conversations for Change Facebook page.