An audience consisting of Arkansas Tech University students, faculty, staff and administrators, as well as members of the surrounding community, interacted with three representatives from local law enforcement during a police and community open forum at the Ross Pendergraft Library and Technology Center on Sept. 21.
Captain Dale Saffold, Arkansas state police, Captain David Ewing, Russellville police department, and Chief Joshua McMillian, Arkansas Tech department of public safety, shared their views on their profession’s role in society during a panel discussion moderated by Dr. MarTeze Hammonds, associate dean for diversity and inclusion at Arkansas Tech. Those in attendance had an opportunity to submit questions for the panel.
“It’s important that our officers treat people fairly,” said Saffold. “I have three rules that I talk about all the time: be safe, give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay and treat people like you want to be treated. I don’t care what your job or title is, if you do that, that covers it.”
Part of the discussion sought to provide context for recent incidents involving police officers and individuals of color around the United States, some of which have resulted in the use of deadly force.
“We talk about what happened, but we often miss out on the why,” said Ewing. “Was it poor training? Was it poor recruiting? I would ask you to be a critical thinker and come up with your own conclusion based upon the facts.”
The panelists also discussed mandatory annual training that all police officers in Arkansas participate in as part of efforts to remove bias and profiling related to race from their profession.
All three panelists agreed that training and building relationships with the community are critical and that all three of the organizations they represent have made significant improvements in those areas in recent years.
“As a profession, we suffer from the bad choices of a few officers,” said McMillian. “Treating other people with respect…that’s professionalism. I would ask you to not judge every officer because one officer treats you wrong. My door is always open. We’re building relationships because that’s the only way we can do our job and do it well.”