“With black on black crime, someone’s going to get convicted,” he said.
For murders committed by cops, he said, “I feel like the legislators need to hold police accountable,” and there needs to be independent investigations.
But, he said, he sees the upcoming forum as a way to get ahead of the problem.
“We need to get this out in the community,” Northampton County Jack Smith said afterward. “One death is one too many.”
Halifax County Sheriff Wes Tripp, who has planned the forum, which will include representation from area clergy, said, “We want an open dialogue with each other. We want to talk about it.”
The forum will have two open mics and there will be a box with pens and paper available for people who don’t want to ask questions openly, Tripp said.
Smith said like other departments in the Roanoke Valley, the law enforcement heads assembled for the press announcement “already have open door policies” and use them to address issues.
Tripp sees the forum as a way to stay ahead of potential problems which have led to police violence in Louisiana and Minnesota. “It’s very disheartening what I’ve seen.”
For the Reverend C.E. McCollum, the forum “is a great beginning.”
“It is just not the killing of unarmed African American men by law enforcement, the killing of police officers in blue,” he said during the event. “This is just not about black on black crime or black on white crime. Nor is it about white on black crime.”
McCollum said, “It is about the senseless murder of all life. All lives have value and worth. All lives matter … whatever color God sees fit to paint us, we are all made in his image with equal dignity and equal rights.”
The minister said, “The time is now that the citizens of the Roanoke Valley community of Eastern North Carolina respond to the immediate and urgent need for our communities and law enforcement to come together and engage in open discussion with meaningful and purposeful dialogue.
“By doing so we will look for ways to implement workable solutions that will bring an end to the nightmare of injustice and indifference that has plagued our society for too long on every level of our society.”
In a six-pronged attack on the problem, the minister called for the following:
Educate youth and citizens about criminal activities within the community
Educate citizens on how not to become victims of violence
Offer open discussions and resolutions concerning social issues impacting homicide
Create a safe space for expression of repressed emotions and sharing of key issues by families of the missing and exploited
Making law enforcement more responsive to homicide and the families of victims
Holding a community dialogue with families of missing persons
“We are calling for honesty on the issues that affect us a community. We must face the truth of our reality and existence. We must rid our culture of innate fear and distrust that exists between black and white America.”
Pastor Jeremy Kobernat of Victory Baptist Church commended the other clergy, community leaders and law enforcement present. “We are truly blessed to live in a community with such genuine, compassionate leadership.”
The pastor said, “I am thankful for our law enforcement officers who work tirelessly day and night to protect us and keep us safe. As a husband, father, pastor and resident of this community, I say thank you and I want our law enforcement officers to know I am praying for their safety.”
Kobernat told the audience he believes “the answers to all our problems can be found in God’s holy word. In our community let’s be kind courteous and respectful to one another. The Bible states that God is no respecter of persons. God so loved the world — that’s every race and every nationality — that he gave his only begotten son that whosever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life.
“I encourage and challenge our community to work together in order to protect our law enforcement officers, our families, our neighbors and fellow citizens.”