Local law enforcement gathered Thursday evening to meet and interact with members of the Auburn community.
Jade Kinney, counseling psychology doctoral student and organizer of the event, began "Together We Can" by introducing law enforcement from the Auburn Police Department, Opelika Police Department, Lee County Sheriff’s Department and Auburn University campus security.
After community members were able to sit and eat with law enforcement scattered at tables throughout the room, the Auburn Police Department's Police Chief Paul Register took questions from the community members as a whole.
The topics of questions were all focused on how to better interact with the law enforcement and how to further understanding between local law enforcement and the community.
The 40 minute question and answer segment of the event included questions on how to best interact with police officers in various situations, how to help law enforcement and how to ease possible tension between citizens and law enforcement.
The majority of questions were centered around the topic of how police officers are trained. Community members asked about how officers are trained with regards to race, sex and religion, and also how officers are trained to de-escalate different scenarios.
“First, the officer goes for 12 weeks to the Police Academy," Register said. "Then they come back and we put them with a training officer. In that training, we’re dealing everyday with how that officer needs to interact with the community. There’s real, live scenarios where we’re teaching that officer that everyone we’re dealing with are people and all different types of people.”
Register also talked about more specific training such as culture and diversity classes that expose the officers to different types of behavior and different cultural norms. Another type of specialized training that Register mentioned was customer service training in which the officers learn how to handle and serve a citizen who is not having the best day.
It’s always good for people to ask questions directly to you, instead of hearing perceptions and misperceptions too," Register said. "I think there were some really good questions asked. I do think that some of them were tough questions, but I think that’s necessary. We need to be able to answer the tough questions."
Kinney and Register were both happy with the turnout at the event which yielded roughly 43 members from the community.
Allison Kam, an Auburn student attending the event, was a little disappointed that more students didn’t come out.
“There were more adults and police officers than anything else," Kam said. "It was great of them to come, but I think it’s our responsibility as students to also be here."
In addition to being able to sit with and ask questions of the different, attending officers, community members were able to sign a pledge of unity card in which they signed a piece of paper that thoroughly explained that officers and citizens intend to further mutual understanding.
This was the second event of its kind as "Together We Can" was held last fall as well. Kinney plans on making the event to run more often and engage as much of the community as possible.