About a year ago, a few members of the Nashua Police force agreed to meet monthly with a handful of Nashua residents to address racial justice in policing. Thursday night, that committee invited members of the public to a meeting at Rivier University to discuss issues around race and policing in the aftermath of violence by and upon law enforcement around the country.
The idea was to try to forge trust between law enforcement and the community.
The most poignant comments came from Sergeant Lakeisha Phelps, the only African American officer at the event.
Phelps was responding to a question from 24 year old JohnL James Jackson. He asked officers what they feel and do after they hear about an incident in which a young black man is killed by law enforcement. Deputy to the Chief, Mike Carignan says he feels officers are judged by the media and the public before there’s been time to learn whether the use of force was justified:
Phelps, on the other hand, told the audience that when she sees videos of apparent police misconduct, she “doesn’t need to know what happened.” But, Phelps says, “I just don’t ever see that happening here.”
Jackson, the 24 year old who initially asked the question, disagreed. He recalled a litany of experiences of police harassment and disrespect, and talked about the affect that has on young men of color, like himself.
Although the committee that meets monthly is still private, Nashua Police Chief, Andrew Lavoie suggested recreating similar gatherings of residents and officers in various neighborhoods around the city.