HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Dozens across Harrisburg turned out for an honest, yet difficult, and sometimes controversial discussion, on race and policing in the Black Community.
The conversation was held at St. Stephens Episcopal Cathedral in Harrisburg, and drew dozens, including Commonwealth citizens, advocates, and keynote speaker Paul Butler, who wrote “Chokehold: Policing Black Men.”
Harrisburg City Police did not attend, but the president of the Pennsylvania Association of Police Chief did.
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“We can always do a better job, and as a police administrator, it’s my job to ensure that we do a better job and hold our officers accountable,” David Splain, President of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, said.
The conversation, at one point, drew criticism from the audience when Dauphin County Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Gettle was asked if Black men are treated differently by police.
“I will say from my perspective, it’s not about race at all,” Gettle said. “It’s about — I’m looking at it from the perspective of is there racism in policing? Sure.”
The moderator, Joyce David of Penn Live, interrupted gasps from the audience and told spectators to allow Gettle to finish speaking.
“There’s racism everywhere, but for me, it’s about having the ability to live in [the] community safely,” Gettle concluded.
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Speakers also noted the long-term impact they said police can have.
“Cops have the power to arrest, to change your life in a minute,” Butler said. “There’s no required national standards on who can be a cop.”
The conversation comes at a time where Black individuals make up nearly half of Pennsylvania’s prison population, yet only 12 percent of the state’s total population.
Advocates, like Butler, believe things need to change, and note that can partially be accomplished through actions like bystander intervention.