SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Members of the Syracuse National Action Network got an opportunity to have an open conversation with Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner on Saturday about issues they often see. Problems the chief has recognized after taking this position six months ago.
Since then, he’s been working hard to fix broken ties between the police department and the community it serves.
“We are very upset about the actions in the video,” said Twiggy Billue, President of the Syracuse chapter of the National Action Network.
Billue said people are hurt after a video was released on social media following a controversial arrest two weeks ago. However, it’s not just that one instance they’re concerned about.
“We want to be able to get back to doing true community policing where community members see a police officer and say ‘Hey how are you doing?’ instead of, ‘Oh my god it’s the police let me go back in the house,” Billue said.
That’s something Chief Kenton Buckner has been working on. He sees the disconnect between law enforcement and the public.
“The police chief or the police department or a community working by themselves or in silos is not going to improve that, we have to work together, even when we disagree,” Chief Buckner said.
Buckner said they need to start by diversifying the police department and having officer patrol the same areas for more familiarity with the people, a change that’s already been made.
The area Buckner is hyper-focused on is the city’s Northside, which he said has the most crime and the least amount of trust in the department. Though the Southwest side still has the most violent crimes, such as homicides. And the way each those arrests are handled, Buckner says, will define the relationship moving forward.
“We have to be on our best with every traffic stop, every pedestrian stop, every encounter with the public. And when we are not professional, we need to walk up to the podium and take responsibility for that,” Chief Buckner said.
The department is also using transparency as a tool.
“There are a lot of documents that we have that we see there’s no harm in the public having these things that we treat just like this,” Chief Buckner said.
The police department released those documents, including a new use of force policy, Friday. Though Chief Buckner knows papers won’t change things overnight, it’s just the beginning.
“You live here, you know what I’m up against, you’ve seen it, you know how historic it is. Don’t expect me to fix anything in six months that you’ve been watching for 30 years. That’s not fair to me,” Chief Buckner said.
It’s important to note that Chief Buckner was invited to speak at the NAN meeting a month ago, well before the May 31 incident. The chief will continue this conversation on Monday when the police department will be releasing the results of the review of that arrest.
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