Police in Ferguson are vowing to walk the streets and talk to residents more often as part of an effort to repair frayed relations with the community more than a year after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.
About 130 people turned out Saturday at Greater Grace Church for the inaugural presentation of the neighborhood policing plan, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The presentation, the first in a series, comes as the St. Louis suburb works to rebuild trust after Brown, who was black, was shot to death by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in August 2014 during a confrontation in the street.
The Ferguson neighborhood policing program calls for teams of officers to be assigned to a specific area, where they would build relationships with residents and businesses.
"We want to get the community more involved in our efforts to develop a better relationship," Ferguson Interim Police Chief Andre Anderson said at the meeting. "We know we can't do it without the community."
Anderson, who became interim police chief in July, said his program was based on old-style policing in which officers would walk the streets and engage residents in conversations.
"I think we are on the right track," he said. "The reality is that the police department can't do it alone."
The Justice Department later cleared Wilson, concluding evidence backed his claim that he shot the 18-year-old in self-defense after Brown first tried to grab the officer's gun during a struggle through the window of Wilson's police vehicle, then came toward him threateningly after briefly running away.
Brown's death helped spawn the national "Black Lives Matter" movement rebuking police treatment of minorities."
In a question-and-answer session, Rod Winterberg, 70, wanted to know if police had enough staff to deal with crime in the city. His wife, Sharon Winterberg, 73, held out a piece of paper that listed six different times guns had gone off in their neighborhood since Sept. 12.
Other residents voiced concerns about how they said some officers continued to treat residents roughly despite assurances of change.
"Culture takes times to change," Anderson told the audience, which was about equally split between whites and African-Americans. "It's slow. Training is going to help develop better relationships with officers."
Deborah Carter, a longtime Ferguson resident, was hopeful about the new policing plan.
"I'm for it," she said. "I also want police to be held accountable for what they do. I don't want anything to be swept under the rug."
The goal of Saturday's meeting was to jumpstart community involvement in the new policing initiative. Volunteers drawn from the event will form a steering committee that will hold five monthly meetings — starting in January — to draft a plan on how to implement the community policing plan.