Thursday, June 16, 2016

Public's chance to talk about Chester 'COPS' tonight

Orlando is not the only place looking for answers.

They have been seeking them in Chester for a long time.

The problem in Chester, thankfully, has never been a mass shooting of the likes that rocked Orlando - and the nation - over the weekend.

Instead, in this city that sits along the Delaware River rocked by hard times, it's more of a dull pain. And that's part of the danger.

It would be all too easy to simply roll your eyes and look the other way when hearing of a shooting in Chester. For many city residents, gunfire has become a part of everyday life.

And there are those in the city who have become distrustful of their police department. That comes in the wake of several police-involved shootings, including one in which a hundreds bullets were fired at a suspect who police say brandished a weapon.

That is part of the reason the city is partnering with the federal Department of Justice on a complete review of its police department. Tonight a very important step in that process will be held, when the public will be able to offer their thoughts on the department and violence in the city.

The session is the product of the Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS. The COPS Office developed the Collaborative Reform Initiative for Technical Assistance in 2011 as an independent and objective way to transform a law enforcement agency through an analysis of policies, practices, training, tactics and accountability methods around key issues facing law enforcement today.

Tonight it is Chester's turn to go under the COPS' spotlight. And the public is being invited to offer their thoughts. The session is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. The goal of the listening session is to elicit feedback from the community on how the Chester Police Department can improve trust and build relationships within the community.

IT will take place in Alumni Auditorum on the campus of Widener University in the city.

The COPS Office stresses this session is crucial to their independent assessment team and its review of the Chester Police Department. They want to hear what the community has to say about their police department.

Tonight is that opportunity.

I hope the place is packed.

We'll be there to cover it.

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