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The Players Coalition hosts a community policing town hall in Baltimore on how to improve the relationship between the police and the communities they serve.

Former Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin addressed the audience Monday night in the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, recounting the fatal shooting of his cousin Corey Jones by a police officer.

In October 2015, Jones, a 31-year-old black musician, was killed in Florida by an on-duty police officer in plainclothes who confronted him after Jones’ car broke down on the side of the road.

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The officer, Nouman K. Raja, was convicted of culpable negligence and first-degree murder in April and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The ordeal, while placing an extreme emotional burden on Boldin’s family, changed his outlook on social activism.

“I think at one point, we had all got numb to [police brutality],” Boldin said.

“It’s been my vow to make sure that I do as much as I can to make sure that another family doesn’t have to go through what my family went through.”

Boldin, as well as current Ravens running back Mark Ingram II, spoke Monday night at a town hall with elected officials, members of law enforcement and community leaders about policing in Baltimore. Boldin and Ingram were joined by Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby; Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison; Maryland state Sen. Jill Carter; Ravens head of security and former Baltimore police officer Darren Sanders; Caryn York, CEO of the Job Opportunities Task Force; Jason Downs, trial attorney and partner at Downs Collins; former Ravens running back Matt Lawrence; former NFL tight end Joel Gamble; and Nicole Hanson, re-entry advocate for Out for Justice.

Boldin’s revelation was followed by the start of demonstrations by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the playing of the national anthem to bring attention to police brutality and racial inequality.

As Kaepernick, who settled a collusion grievance in February against the NFL and its ownership after claiming that his outspoken views and actions denied him employment, became a national story, Boldin continued with his activism.

In 2017, Boldin, who earlier Monday officially retired as a Raven, and Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins co-founded the Players Coalition, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to raise awareness and impact change regarding social inequality and racial justice.

Monday’s town hall, divided into two panels, gave public officials the opportunity to interact with members of the community about solutions to improve the relationship between private citizens and law enforcement.

Carter (D-Baltimore) spoke out against “systematic deficiencies” regarding The Civilian Review Board, an independent agency that collects complaints on law enforcement units.

Carter called for more investigation and disciplinary discretion to be given to the review board as it pertains to regulating the Baltimore Police Department.

She added that she intends to put together a bill during the upcoming legislative session that would provide more authority to the review board.

In a later panel, Harrison said that the final decision to discipline officers should fall in the hands of the commissioner, but there should be “checks and balances.”

Harrison added that a department could investigate itself properly when it is “well-run, well-defined and well-disciplined.”

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Ingram and Gamble, among others, disagreed with Harrison, raising concerns over transparency and impartiality.

“I think there need to be other parties in place who have the power to enact discipline,” said Boldin, who suggested that civilians play a role in disciplinary actions.

York brought attention to the over-policing of neighborhoods in Baltimore and the “collateral consequences” that often arise, calling it the “criminalization of poverty.”

York said that these disproportionate encounters with law enforcement can further disenfranchise people in the community, which produces a greater strain on the relationship between them and the police.

Mosby cited her decision to decriminalize possession of marijuana as an example of this disenfranchisement, saying that black neighborhoods are still being targeted despite the announced change.

“You can change the laws, but there is still discriminatory enforcement that we cannot be complicit in,” Mosby said.

Panelists ultimately agreed that the necessary steps to improving policing in Baltimore begin with holding public servants, like Carter and Harrison, accountable.

Harrison said he is currently working to eradicate bad practices within a force that was found to be rife with misconduct, while strengthening the relationship between law enforcement and the community.

“The change starts with us,” Boldin told the audience. “If we don’t stay engaged and involved, then change won’t happen.”

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