NORWALK, Conn. -- There were pleas for better policing and understanding between police officers and the community they serve, at a rally organized by Norwalk's NAACP chapter Tuesday.
Jalin Sead, an NAACP member as well as a member of the Democratic Town Committee, said it's important that the lives of police officers be honored as well as Black lives.
"Blue lives do matter, we just want you to recognize that Black lives matter," Sead told the crowd and the assembled police brass in front of City Hall.
Organized by the Norwalk NAACP chapter, the event also featured Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling and Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik, along with state Rep. Bruce Morris and U.S. attorney executive assistant Tracy Dayton, who spoke to the crowd of about 150 gathered in front of City Hall.
In opening the event, Morris looked out over the mixed-race crowd and expressed his satisfaction with what he saw.
"Optically from where I am standing it is a beautiful picture," he said with a smile. "It's black, it's white, it's brown and it's a blue; it's a good sight."
Morris said there is national concern about the issue — and that's why they chose to gather Tuesday in his hometown.
"Hearts throughout the country are bereaved, struggling, fear and some anger. We have come tonight to be proactive," Morris said.
Darnell Crosland, NAACP president, called for a moment of silence for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two men shot by police officers, and for the five Dallas police officers killed last week by a lone gunman.
"We are gathered here today because Norwalk and its NAACP branch feels that as a country we can do much better," he told the crowd.
He pointed to a pair of billboards erected at the rally: One featured a New York Daily News cover showing a shot Sterling and a second billboard featuring the photos of the five Dallas police officers.
"Today we are gathered here in a response to a crisis. Let me be clear we are angry at what is happening in our country," he said. "You look to the right at this board and that is very disturbing and you look to the left and you see this board with five officers who lost their lives and that is very disturbing."
Kulhawik said the department has worked hard to provide better training for officers in Norwalk. Of the last 33 officers hired since he became chief, 19 are either women or minorities, he said.
"We recruit and hire a diverse workforce that resembles the community we serve. Since I have been chief, we have hired 33 new officers, 19 of which have been women or minorities," a statistic that drew a round of applause.
He said the department has trained all its supervisors in "procedural justice" that not only examines whether an officer's actions are legal but also whether they serve the greater good.
In addition to police training, he said the department has invested in body cameras and community outreach.
"We need to continue to take the time to listen and understand each other. One's belief does not have to be exclusive of another's. Saying that black lives matter doesn't mean that blue lives don't," he said.
Dayton said the nation underwent a painful, traumatic week.
"We have experienced a profound anger and grief, not only for the families who lost love ones but also for the widening rift that has been created between the communities and law enforcement," she said.
However, quoting Martin Luther King Jr., she said that violence was not the answer. She said that it's necessary for people such as those in the crowd to come together, talk and resolve issues.
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