ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- A new Rochester community initiative aims to build a better relationship between African Americans and police officers. It will begin in February.
"It's really difficult for us as African Americans to trust the police officers," said Andre Crockett, Barbershop and Social Services.
Crockett helped created the initiative to help police officers understand why Black communities have a distrust for law enforcement.
"The history, it starts way back to slavery. What we call slave patrols. When they were hired on, and brought on to keep the slaves, enslaved. And from that, it evolved. And in the 60s we see how it perpetuated to keep them in line, and we see how they water hosed and sic the dogs on Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks and all the rest of them who were trying to make progress," Crockett said.
The recent death of George Floyd has created additional tension between African Americans and law enforcement.
Crockett said for the past eight months he's worked towards creating a police-community liaison.
"That new community liaison and the police department is going to do a community-based activities together. That's important because now the community will see them interact in a positive way. We want them to see the police department and the polices. Somebody different and not just someone who is policing," he said.
Community advocate, William Whitehorn will be filling that role.
"Through my lived experiences and through my passion for advocacy, I will fight against systemic racism and injustices and oppression that has plagued people of color for many generations. By things like creating a space for open dialogue, and creating opportunities for the officers to meet some of the people in the community, that in other situations wouldn't have access to those type of meetings," Whitehorn said.
Whitehorn is a deacon at Christway Full Gospel Church, a co-host on Barbershop talk, Founder and CEO of Whitehorn Reliable Shuttle Services, and does outreach for the underserved individuals in the community.
"Right now we are in the works of creating a forum with some of the people that have been affected by law enforcement, with some of the officers. And how it has affected their lives through generational oppression," Whitehorn said.
Barbershop and Social Services along with Minnewest Bank, are raising funds for the position with a goal of $25,000. Mayo Clinic has already given $15,000 dollars to the cause.
Crockett says this is a program that even non- minorities should see the purpose behind.
"This could help save lives because at the end of the day, that mom that dad wants their son and daughters to come home," he said.
There will also be a community-engaged response team who will help the community liaison.