Law enforcement leaders stress importance of positive community-police interaction

By Joseph Helean
Contributing Writer

Public safety is important to everyone in a community. No matter where it is or the population size, people want and expect a basic level of public safety and behavior from their law enforcement officers and institutions. The University of Alabama and surrounding Tuscaloosa community are no different.

There are countless public events throughout the year in Tuscaloosa. The University’s sporting events draw hundreds of thousands of people to Tuscaloosa each year for things like football, gymnastics, basketball and more. These large gatherings of people mean that the University has to put certain measures in place to try and ensure public safety with as little interference with the public as possible. Of course this is not something unique to UA by any means.

Most large public events these days have at least some level of police presence. Many people are so used to police outside and among events on the Alabama campus that they don’t even notice them anymore.

UA senior Joseph Kruszka said, “I only really note the police presence on game day because it’s so large.”

Both police and students on the UA campus believe the general relationship between students, Tuscaloosa residents and police is good. However recent events in the national headlines have made some people in Tuscaloosa question and demand answers from those in charge of Tuscaloosa law enforcement.

The deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown at the hands of police have dominated headlines for the last several months. Its lead to people all across the United States questioning the practices and attitudes of the people meant to protect and serve the public. Tuscaloosa is no different. There have been several town hall-type forums around the city since the events of Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York became front-page news.

At one such meeting Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steve Anderson acknowledged that both the public and police, in all communities, could do more to improve their relationships, especially in minority communities.

“At the end of the day, we may not agree, but if we give people an opportunity to voice their concerns, and their opinions and actively listen and engage and come up with solutions,” Anderson said.

Sheriff Ron Abernathy said it’s also about forming relationships between the community and their police.

“My No. 1 thing that I tell every single (police officer)… is, ‘your job here is to help people.’”