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After grand jury announcement in Missouri, it's time to build bonds in community [Letter]

This week a Grand Jury in St. Louis County, Mo., announced that Police Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African American male. After the announcement news outlets were filled with images of police in riot gear, smoke bombs being released and buildings on burning. While our Laurel community remained relatively calm, as a pastor and father of three African American boys, I could not help but think about the fear this caused for parents in our church and community.

In the African American community and others, questions have been asked regarding the value of black life in our society. How can I or any other African American parent look at their sons and say, you are safe when our society seems to suggest that they are not? I can remember the heart break I felt when my 11-year-old son told me he was afraid when he saw a police car. While I told him that he should never fear a police officer our society continues to deepen his fear.

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In response to the Grand Jury announcement some protesters turned to looting and rioting as an expression of their anger, this is not a constructive solution. I think fears and tensions are eased with effective communication. We can help young African American males value the service provided by police officers when they are able to build relationships with officers in programs like Laurel's Cops Camp. We can also create opportunities for the police officers to dialogue with the community helping to create healthy bonds with residents.I don't want my sons to be frightened when they see a police officer. I don't want my sons to be viewed as valueless African American males by police officers; it's time to build bonds.

Marquez Ball, Pastor

Uplift Church

Laurel

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