(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Racial tension between the black community and police departments are at the forefront of the country. The divide is leaving communities to address the issue head on, including here in St. Joseph.
The city is putting the conversation on the table by forming a new subcommittee to address racial disparities in St. Joseph.
“It just felt wrong not to have a special committee to look at this,” said Whitney Lanning, Chairwoman of the Mayor's Blue-Ribbon Crime Advisory committee.
The Mayor's Blue-Ribbon Crime committee now has a subcommittee, tasked with addressing the relationship between the racial inequity in the community and the police department.
“These topics and racial disparities in our community aren’t talked about enough and I think there’s always been a need for this committee. I think that this is a little late, but I think it’s good we’re doing it now. It’s good we’re trying to be proactive,” said Lanning.
In the committee's first meeting Thursday afternoon, the members set to accomplish three goals: to highlight the St. Joseph Police Department's positive efforts, to amplify black voices in the community and to identify best police practices and implement them.
Lanning said bridging the gap between the black community and law enforcement is the main objective.
“Our second goal I think is probably the most important. It’s to engage members of the black community and the minority community in St. Joseph. It’s easy to sit up here and give our own perspectives when it doesn’t affect us personally,” said Lanning.
The committee includes Whitney Lanning, Drew Brown, Keith Dudley, Mickey Roberts, Mike Cazel and Daniel Radke. Most members hold law enforcement background, but the committee said they're looking to add more diverse voices.
“What we’re gonna have to work on as a committee is using partnerships and relationships and building partnerships and relationships. Working with leaders in the midtown community and other areas of town that are underrepresented in meetings like this,” said Lanning.
Lanning said the discussions around race and police are only the tip of the iceberg.
“This is a symptom of a bigger problem and I think the committee is going to come out with a lot of different needs that get identified and the only way we can do that thoroughly is through the representatives in the black community,” said Lanning.
The Mayor's Blue-Ribbon Crime Advisory subcommittee's next meeting will be held July 23rd at 3 p.m. The committee plans to hold the meeting somewhere in the midtown area of St. Joseph.