JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – There’s no secret that the relationship between police officers and Black communities have been strained in this country. After the death of George Floyd in 2020, the tension between police and minority communities grew even greater. However, there are those who are working hard to try and change that.
Several members of the Tempe, Arizona Police Department stand together with their invited guests from Telos. They recently took a cultural enrichment trip through the South that included four southern cities. Among them were New Orleans, Louisiana and Selma and Montgomery, Alabama. They toured the Legacy Museum and made a stop right here in Jackson, Mississippi.
“It’s about learning. All of this is about seeking to understand and really understand exactly what the culture and history behind what has shaped our country. For law enforcement, it’s important to understand that history to know the best way of policing people here in our respective areas,” said Jeffrey Glover, Police Chief of Tempe, Arizona.
They visited New Horizon Church to listen in. They talked with church members about their concerns with policing in their community. Then, they were off to the Civil Rights Museum to understand the state’s history.
“I think what I want to be able to take back to Arizona is really the knowledge of having that history. There’s such a rich history here in the South. I think it’s something the officers, what I want from our officers is to understand it, to be able to talk and have conversations throughout the police department about what they’ve experienced on this trip. It’s something powerful, something that’s meaningful, and I think it’s something that’s going to help us build relationships. This is just the beginning. It’s going to stretch people in ways that they haven’t stretched. We need to do that in order to change the culture in law enforcement,” said Glover.
Michael Horn is a retired commander who helped organize this tour. He’s done it several times before and believes it’s insightful.
“What’s so amazing is seeing these officers from Tempe, Arizona lean into some difficult conversations, seeing them be vulnerable with people we meet and seeing them process these things on a deeper level. There’s going to be bumps in the road, but I’m an eternal optimist that this is going to improve. We have people in this law enforcement agency and others who lean into these conversations and build relationships the right way,” said Horn.
For Tempe Police Officer Ryan Cook, it’s his first time ever in the South. He definitely wants to see positive changes. We asked why he wanted to be become a police officer.
“My deeper feeling is to make a change, to have a conversation that is not easy for individuals to have. That is what we all want, to make the community better,” said Cook.
Cook said he wants to be a police officer for a long time and is hopeful that police and minority groups can find common ground.
“In my deepest heart, I know our communities can come together. It’s just going to take hard conversations like this. It’s going to take moments of each individual, culture and religious group to come to the table and have honest conversations. Then, we can get back in our communities and share what we’ve learned as we have those interactions,” said Cook.