JAMESTOWN – An estimated 50 people were at the Robert H. Jackson Center Thursday night to attend a free screening of a documentary focusing on building relationships between police and the black community and to also participate in a discussion afterward.
The screening of “Walking While Black: L.O.V.E is the Answer” was made possible through a collaboration between the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office and the County District Attorney’s Office. In addition to being screened on location, the film – along with a subsequent community conversation – was also live streamed over the Internet.
The documentary is an award winning film offering a message of reconciliation. The film focuses on improving relations between police and people of color by reshaping the narrative from conflict to L.O.V.E. – which is an acronym for Learning, Opening, Volunteering and Empowering. According to the documentary producer, who also wrote a book on the subject, the “Learning” part focuses on learning about each other. The “Opening” is to focus on opening our hearts to each other. “Volunteering” means to actively and willingly being part of a solution in each other’s lives. And the “Empowering” focuses on encouraging others to do the same.
Chautauqua County Sheriff Jim Quattrone, who facilitated the community discussion afterward, said he hoped the film would encourage both local police departments and members of the black community to work toward building trust and understanding with one another.
“What I’d like to think about is the LOVE principle and how we can put that to use in our own community. Not just law enforcement but also how can the community put it to use. How can we sustain that. And what will you do, individually, to sustain that and keep it moving. Because it’s really going to take all of us to continue to move in that direction,” Quattrone explained.
The sheriff also said that he also had a recent meeting with over 35 other police administrators across New York State and showed the film, and it was well received by that group as well.
During the discussion afterward, several community members spoke out about the current relationship between police and the black community and called for better education efforts to not only remind police about how to interact and deescalate situations, but to also better inform young people of the rights so they know what police can and can not do during an interaction.
Justin Hubbard from the Jamestown Justice Coalition also requested that more rank and file officers in the community be required to watch the documentary as a learning tool. However, Quattrone said there are likely contractual issues that prevent police departments from requiring officers to do that. However, he did say that it would be added to the curriculum at the local police academy so that incoming officers will likely have seen the film and at least being exposed to the concept of LOVE, prior to joining the police force.
After the screening, Quattrone said he was pleased with the turnout and hopeful the conversation will continue moving forward.
“I think it’s important that we recognize how people are feeling in the community and address that. If they’re feeling that way, it’s real for them. sometimes it’s hard for us to understand. But we have to recognize it and keep on moving forward. I think the biggest thing we hear is that we need to see change and to build that trust,” Quattrone told WRFA afterward. “We talk about this building of police-community relations. I’d like to get to the point where we are able to say that this is a community, not a separation between police and community, but that this is a community.”
Among those who attended the event were representatives of local law enforcement, including those in the Jamestown Police Department.
Several members of the black community were also on hand, as well as the members of the Jamestown Justice Coalition and several local elected officials, including District Attorney Patrick Swanson, County Executive PJ Wendel, Jamestown City Council woman Tamu Graham–Reinhardt, and Assemblyman Andy Goodell.
While the first viewing of this film was last night, Quattrone said he will be able to show the film in various other areas throughout the county and will be working with other areas to locate venues to show the film and have community discussions.
Should you be interested in hosting the film please contact Sheriff Jim Quattrone at 753-4900 or email at quattrone @ sheriff.us.