Food can be the way to the heart and as we learned in Kansas, it can also be a force in a positive dialogue between residents and police officers.
According to the Witchita City Eagle, a protest planned for Sunday afternoon (July 17), turned into a cookout due to a suggestion by Police Chief Gordon Ramsay. Yes, you read that correctly. Ramsay and other officers took part in the cookout and a larger forum afterward where everyone was able to ask questions about building trust and respect in the community. “If you feel mistreated, I want to know about it,” Ramsay said. “If they feel they are being mistreated, at the scene is not the time to argue about it, wait until it’s over.”
Lt. Travis Rakestraw also sat with three other men and shared a conversation about racial disparities and the need for more community policing. “The community needs more people like you who can see the problems in wide open eyes,” Rakestraw told Ivan Ray, a Hispanic student at the University of Kansas. “What should we do about it?”
Capt. Rusty Leeds explained that officers had better relationships with residents until the 90’s when gang violence reportedly diminished events similar to the cookout.
Rakestraw called the event a success and claimed it was more helpful than the recent protests taking place in light of the police shootings deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. “I don’t think it’s a conscious effort,” Rakestraw said to the men about the critiques of police officers. “I don’t think anybody does it intentionally but we fill in the gaps with life experiences, what we read in the paper, and we start to view people as a generalization instead of understanding people as individuals.”
Check out a brief recap of the event below.