PeaceKeepers founder attends Macon forum to address police, community relations

hgoodridge@macon.comApril 25, 2013 

Dennis Muhammad, founder of the national group Peace Keepers, was part of a panel at Macon’s City Hall on Thursday. The community forum was part of the group’s effort to improve relations between the Macon Police Department and the community.

The relationship between Macon police and some in the black community have been strained for some time. That bad blood was made worse with the Dec. 21, 2012, shooting of Sammie “Junebug” Davis Jr. at the Pio Nono Avenue Kroger by a Macon officer.

“The relationship with law enforcement is what brought us here, and the shooting of Sammie Davis Jr.,” said Al Tillman, a community activist and member of the local Peace Keepers group, the organization’s first in the state. He also moderated the forum.

“We are dealing with cases of racial profiling. I think that goes on,” said Macon City Councilman Larry Schlesinger, who was a member of the panel at Thursday’s forum.

Bibb County Sheriff David Davis was also a member of the panel, which answered questions from Tillman and Macon resident George Muhammad, also a member of the Peace Keepers.

Schlesinger said he has recommended to Davis that when his office consolidates with the Macon Police Department, the sheriff should go through all of the police department’s files to identify problem officers. That comment got an applause from the 45 people in attendance.

“Law enforcement is here to serve and protect,” he said. “I think it is at times more protecting than serving.”

Davis agreed problematic officers need to be rooted out. “If you don’t get the bad apples out on the front end, they’re going to turn into rotten apples and ruin the entire department,” he said.

Dennis Muhammad would not comment on the shooting of Sammie Davis, but did remark that cases of police shootings have increased around the country.

“We have to deal with these controversial shootings,” he said. “You have a problem here in Macon. ... Black-on-black violence is on the increase. That’s something we have to address.”

George Muhammad suggested that Davis and Macon Mayor Robert Reichert, who also attended the forum, allow the Peace Keepers founder to give sensitivity training to Macon officers and Bibb deputies. Dennis Muhammad is noted for giving such training in the New York area. Peace Keepers has locations in 10 states, including Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee in the South, as well as a location in London.

Dennis Muhammad sympathized with the job that police officers have. “I understand the challenge that law enforcement has in our community,” he said. “Officers see the worst society has to offer in our community. ... You never know what an officer goes through when they see a 14-year-old shot because of his sneakers. ... They (police) are suffering. They’re not winning the war on drugs, they’re not winning the war on violence.”

With all the effort to fix the Macon Police Department and its bad community relations, Davis said it’s important to remember something. “You have to remember that there will not be a Macon Police Department. It’s all Bibb County,” he said. “And it certainly will not be business as usual.”

When his office takes over policing duties in the city, he said he knows he has his work cut out to fix the negative perception left by Macon police. “You meet people at those perceptions and work to change those perceptions. It’s a new day and a new organization. Give us an opportunity to change it,” said Davis.

To contact writer Harold Goodridge, call 744-4382.

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