The use of force and racial profiling were among subjects discussed during Saturday’s town hall meeting at St. James United Methodist Church.
Moderated by the Rev. Charles Robinson, the church pastor, the meeting had six panelists: Temple Mayor Tim Davis, Temple NAACP President Bennie Walsh, Temple interim Police Chief Jim Tobin, Un-Included Club Executive Director Doree Collins, Kim White, co-founder of the 411 House, and Lisa Adams, superintendent of curriculum for Temple schools. Robinson asked the panel prepared questions and received others from the audience.
Referring to two books, “White Fragility” and “Post Traumatic Slave Disorder,” one man asked Davis how the city would mitigate white supremacy.
“There are a lot of people stuck in their ways,” Davis said. “I think racism is imbedded … I think over time society has to change.”
Robinson said he thought racism is more imbedded in the policies than in the people themselves.
“We need to confront racist policies and structures,” he said.
Tobin weighed in on the subject of racism in law enforcement.
“It’s every agency’s responsibility to see it doesn’t happen,” he said.
Officers are graded daily and have car and body-worn cameras, he said. Every quarter, the lieutenant on each team picks three random videos, “to make sure the officers are following policy and are being fair,” Tobin said.
“Our department is also annually requested to make a biased police report on traffic stops,” he said. This report gives the race breakdown, tells if there was a search, if so what was the reason, and what was found, he said.
About the use of force, Tobin said the police department averages about 110,000 events a year. Since 2015, there have been about 80 uses of force a year, from wrestling to the use of firearms, he said.
Robinson asked if police officers are trained to kill to stop a threat.
“Police officers are not trained to kill,” Tobin said.
They are allowed to fire a weapon to protect their own life or the life of another person, he said. They are trained to fire at the center of mass, or the largest portion of the body, he said, not at arms or legs.
Police officers hit their target 40 percent of the time, Tobin said, and a live situation is a lot more difficult than shooting at a paper target. So they need to fire at the center of mass to increase their chances of stopping the threat, he said.
Another topic at the meeting was transportation for people who want to work but don’t have a car.
“This is a hard question that we get all the time,” Davis said.
The HOP, a regional public transportation system, is not the city’s service, he said, as Temple pays about 3 percent of its budget. The HOP service area has shrunk because of a decline in federal support, he said. “The city of Temple is exploring options.”
White agreed that transportation is a big issue in east Temple and said concerned citizens are asking businesses if they will help employees get to work.