There hasn’t been a controversial police shooting in Wilton Manors, and members of the city’s Community Affairs Advisory Board [CAAB] want to keep it that way.
To do that, CAAB wants to send out a survey asking residents and business owners what their perception of the city’s police department is. If enough concerns are voiced, CAAB says it wants a community forum held to address those concerns. If the feedback is positive, a meet and greet would be organized instead. The issue was discussed at the Aug. 11 CAAB meeting. CAAB members said they hoped to have the survey ready by next week.
“We don’t want a Ferguson to happen here. We don’t want an Overtown,” said board member Tim Ross. He added that the police should also be surveyed to see how they perceive the residents. “What’s the perception that the police have? [Are they thinking] is someone going to take a shot at me? It’s a two-way street.”
The idea comes from CAAB member Isaac Brooks III.
Brooks, a black man and former police officer, had nothing but praise for the city’s police. But he said he’s worried about how others might view them. “It’s all perception . . . That’s my point. To start the dialogue,” Brooks said.
Commander Gary Blocker said the police department was open to the forum and wants to participate in what questions are placed on the survey.
A resident satisfaction survey by the city in 2015 found that 73 percent of respondents were “very satisfied” with the service offered by the police. Fifteen percent were “very dissatisfied” and 12 percent were “neutral.” About 450 residents responded to the survey. The survey also stated that residents responded with a desire for a more communicative and pro-active police department.
CAAB members expressed a similar belief and said more needs to be done to make the police more visible and part of the community.
Blocker said that the police department takes part in community events and has begun using social media – Facebook and Twitter. There’s also a YouTube channel with several videos.
CAAB member Bryan Wilson said that it was up to everyone in the city to communicate. The more communication occurs, he added, the less likely the occurrence of tragic incidents.
Audience members in attendance also commended the police but agreed that things could always be improved.
Geoffrey Vancol, a black man, works in Wilton Manors but lives in Miami. He said previous incidents in Miami, such as being stopped by police for seemingly no reason, make him generally nervous and Wilton Manors because the city reminds him of some of the areas he’s been stopped in. “I always do feel uncomfortable.”