Sacramento forum on Ferguson with city leaders draws hundreds

SACRAMENTO - The shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri continues to draw national attention in communities across the country, including Sacramento.

Wednesday night the Sacramento NAACP hosted a forum at the Guild Theater in Oak Park to talk with law enforcement and city leaders on how to prevent a Ferguson-like scenario from happening in the city.

Mayor Kevin Johnson, who co-hosted the forum, told the crowd that after the Ferguson riots, mayors around the country called each other to compare notes on how they could stop their cities from becoming the next flash point. Some of the people in the audience worried what happened in Ferguson could happen in Sacramento.

At the peak of the forum, the Guild Theater had standing room only with hundreds gathered to hear from city leaders about what Sacramento can learn from the events in Ferguson.

"If we want to do right by Michael Brown and his family, then his death can not be in vain," Johnson said. "That means that we've got to do our part here in Sacramento to create the right environment, to create this fair and just environment."

Sacramento Police Chief Sam Somers told the crowd having events like this one on a regular basis help build connections between law enforcement and the people they serve.

"Having those connections, establishing those relationships when you don't have something going on is a lot easier than trying to establish or start something when you have a Ferguson going on," Somers said.

But not everyone appreciated what some felt was a symbolic attempt at outreach. Ladauwn Suggs was one of several in the crowd who felt young people were underrepresented on the panel and excluded from the Q&A.

"More of us talking one on one with you guys -- letting you guys know what we've been through, and our encounters with the police and everything. And, what can we do as youth to come together to make things better," Suggs suggested after the forum as a way to help foster better relations between police and young people.

The unsatisfied mood from the crowd outside the venue caused concern for some of a growing unrest, but Somers pointed out the difficulty of maintaining a constant dialogue.

"You have a dynamic event like just occurred in Ferguson, everybody wants to come out. Everybody wants to be a part of it. Everybody wants to be heard," Somers said. "A month later, you have that same meeting, you want to do it, and you get about 12 people showing up, and that's the big problem."

Johnson told the crowd he has been asked by various parties at least four times to visit Ferguson, but he wanted to talk to the Sacramento community first. He said in the days ahead he will consider going to Ferguson to represent mayors from around the country.


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