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Thursday, August 14, 2014 - 2:54pm

Georgia Police Chief: Fixing Community-Police Relations In Ferguson Starts With Conversation

DeKalb County Police Chief Cedric Alexander is heading to Ferguson, Missouri this weekend in an effort to help restore the peace.

Riots have erupted in Ferguson following last weekend's fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager.

Alexander heads the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and also has a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

He’s been in law enforcement for about 37 years and has seen challenging times between the police and the community while growing up and working in Miami’s Dade County.

The police chief says its clear police–community relations were strained in Ferguson even before the shooting, and hopes his visit will help put the city on a course to repairing that relationship. That course, Alexander says, starts with conversations.

“One thing I’ve very optimistic about is that once we start talking to each other--once we come to the terms that the police is not going anywhere, community is not going to go anywhere-- we’ve gotta find a way to co-exist.”

Alexander says he plans to meet with a number of people in Ferguson, including the chief of police, police officers, and community leaders.

“We have to find a way to co-exist,” said Alexander. “That’s going to be helpful to that community, to that state, and to this country. And that’s the role that we have historically played and that’s the role that we’re going to hopefully play in helping this community move forward.”

He says one important factor for a police force is diversity, which he says there’s a lot of in Dekalb County. The force is about 50/50 Black and African-American. Alexander says it also has a small Hispanic population, and he is trying to recruit more women.

“But diversity is just like anything else. We have to pay attention to it and you have to be sensitive to it. And you have to hire the best people that are out there for this job,” said Alexander. “But we have to be very conscious to diversity. And I think that’s one of the challenges that’s been questioned, even in Missouri.”

The police chief hopes the DeKalb County Police Department can be a model for Ferguson's police force.

“Hopefully what they will learn is that you can have a strong, healthy relationship with your police department,” he said. “We have a good relationship with people in the community here in this county. And we feel good about that. But it’s an ongoing, working relationship.”

He says Dekalb County doesn’t have to be the only model-- Ferguson can learn from police agencies that are even closer to them. Regardless of what police department Ferguson uses as a model, Alexander says the willingness to change is there.

“The {Ferguson Police} Chief, he comes across and appears to be a very sincere and honest and genuine guy who really wants to do the right thing and wants to see the right thing happen. And Want to make sure there is an investigation that is done in which everyone feels good about,” said Alexander. “He wants to see a community-- that community and his police department build new bridges. And we’re going to help him do that.”