Rochester Woman Online was very active in the community in January, attending local events that put the focus on community relations with local law enforcement.

Transparency for Peace is a community organization seeking 501-3-c status with the  hopes of changing the way officers deal with our children in our community. A community forum was held at the David Gantt Community Center on Carter Street in January where our very own editor, Cheryl L. Kates- Benman Esq. was on the panel of speakers in attendance.

Transparency for Peace (TFP) is an organization Sandra L. Graham and Veronica Echols founded to build long-term, life-changing relations between elected officials and people of all ethnicities. The organization strives to build bridges, and through focused communication, identify obstacles and barriers found in the community interfering with positive relationships between the police, elected officials and the people.

TFP feels a major step in enforcing positive relations with law enforcement is to start with accountability and transparency. Many local activists and community representatives were in attendance and shared their point of view about differing topics.

A grieving mother stepped up to address the crowd, asking Deputy Chief of Police Relations Wayne P. Harris why the Rochester Police Department didn’t address the ever-growing problem of the black-killing-black crime. Her son was recently murdered and she wanted answers. Ms. Dozier indicated that the police need to shut down the stores selling drugs and guns in the Rochester community. She feels this would help with the unnecessary violence.

Deputy Chief Harris gave a very sincere and hopeful indication that he, like other police officers, really care about making changes in the community. Black Panther party members became enflamed when DC Harris indicated Irish and Dutch immigrants were all brought to the US and that African-Americans needed to learn “how to play the game”. The Panthers brought up the important fact that the US Constitution makes a distinction where African-American people are defined as being 3/5th of a citizen. They feel this factor plays into the current outlook of African-Americans in our community. The heated discussion included the unjustified shootings of black men by the police.

The group “Transparency for Peace” were also present for part two of the paneled discussion held at Galleria La Muse in January where the issues of “Racial Bias in the Criminal Justice System” were addressed.

Editor, Cheryl L. Kates Benman Esq. stated,“It’s a shame in this day and age, that we as a community continue to have to deal with issues such as racial disparity. It’s even more troubling that racism has grown to be a much larger problem than it was even 10 years ago. In the Civil Rights Movement we dealt with individual racism. The problem is much larger now to include systematic and structural racism which affects whole systems like the entire criminal justice system.

A system which is structurally unfair and biased implementing separate systems of justice for individuals based on the color of their skin has no place in American society. However, for the minority that is a reality in New York State. The system is racially biased form the moment of arrest and throughout sentencing”

When asked why she started Transparency for Peace, Sandra L. Graham replied, “Community engagement is our goal. We feel through interaction and education most of the problems we are having can be solved. Officers need to understand our community. It is apparent when they do not live in the area they police there will be misunderstanding as the atmosphere in the inner city and surrounding areas are very different.

We hope through community involvement relations can be healed. We would like to sponsor programs such as bowl night, diversity training by doing role play ( inner city youth and RPD officers), and having round table rap sessions where we can bring our community and their community together as one.”

Sandra has a background working with the Veteran’s Administration. She is very passionate in her work to assist the community. One of the principle values she hopes to advance through her community work is to reinforce the fact that all people have value, should be treated with respect and dignity. There must be accountability and no one should be above the law.

Sandra also stated we can expect to see the following for Transparency for Peace over the next year: the implementation of community programs designed to foster education understanding and communication between inner-city youth and the police department and or elected officials. TFP also plans to assist with voter registration. The organization feels if the people want their voice to be heard, one way to do this is through voting.

What many people do not know about this organization is that it is the executive chamber is made up mostly of family. All of the women involved  also have a deep connection to religion. Sandra finds it very rewarding to work alongside her daughter Jazzlin in finding a solution. She loves to see her daughter as a young, professional, successful woman standing up for what she believes in and finding through intervention, a solution for community problems. Problems which affect the entire community.  If the streets are not fair and safe for one, they are not fair and safe for all.

Our society is in a sad place when racial issues are still at the forefront of how people are treated by our government. The forum at the David Gantt Community Center was a beginning. It was a start to finding a solution. Deputy Harris may not have all the answers to fix the problems we face in Rochester, New York with community relations, but it was refreshing to hear his ideas of where he plans to start.

Of interest was Deputy Harris’s ability to listen. He listened to what all of the community residents had to say, even when it was not favorable to him as an officer or administrator of the RPD. Many times the barrie is that people in administration pledge to have all the answers, but often their view does not represent “We, the People”. Deputy Harris was also very personable and addressed the community members by sharing his personal views on the issues, aside from his views as a Rochester Police Officer.

Sandra Graham and Veronica Echols are women with a vision. They know there is a problem and it affects all of us. Instead of sitting idly by and complaining about what is happening, they have decided to be part of the solution. Rochester Woman Online salutes their optimism and vision to make our community a better place and will be following them in the months to come and giving you, our readers an update on their progress.