SACRAMENTO - Sacramento Kings players DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Matt Barnes and Garrett Temple hosted a youth town hall on Monday night in efforts to strengthen relationships between the community and law enforcement.
Monday's discussion panel was private, off-limits to both the public and the media until a question-and-answer panel following the event, which took place at the Midtown Bayside Church in Sacramento.
An estimated 150 high school students from three area schools were invited to discuss with and question local law enforcement members, and even take part in role playing various scenarios, such as the way to react during a traffic stop. The goal was to educate and improve relations within the community.
"The men and women that spoke were very powerful," said former Sacramento Sheriff Dwight Pruitt, who now serves as an NBA Security Representative. "They were direct and they were open, and the message was clear to us."
Monday's event allowed members of law enforcement to hear concerns from the youth and that certainly left an impression on some of the high ranking officials.
"Yeah, I learned there's fear in the community still," said Sacramento Deputy Chief of Police Ken Bernard, when asked what he learned from Monday's discussion. "We have a lot of work as a profession to break down those barriers."
In the wake of athletes like San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who have taken various forms of protest during the national anthem, the four Kings veterans reached out to try to open an open discussion within the community.
Cousins, who won a gold medal this past summer in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, said saw the type of event hosted by USA teammate Carmelo Anthony in Compton, CA.
"Just listening to the kids, just listening to the community, it touched me (and) I understood," Cousins said. "I wanted to bring it back to where I'm from and the city I live in, as well."
Last September, after winning his gold medal, Cousins held a police and community panel similar to Anthony's in his hometown of Mobile, AL. Monday's town hall in Sacramento was one in a series of events Cousins and his teammates have chosen to take part in.
"I think it was a beautiful thing, it was a positive thing and I think it was steps in the right direction," said Cousins, who is planning on future events in Sacramento. "It won't be the last time."
Barnes, who grew up in the Sacramento area, graduating from Del Campo High School in Fair Oaks, has been one of the most outspoken athletes on relations between African Americans and law enforcement. He said it was important to he and his teammates to help bridge the gap between both sides.
"We feel like there is a lack of knowledge on the citizens part and a lack of knowledge on the police officers' part which creates fear," Barnes said.
Barnes identified solutions from both sides that could ultimately look to improve relations on both sides.
"Officers being more personable, citizens being more susceptible and open to listening to what they have to say; and that goes both ways," said Barnes.
Follow Sean Cunningham on Twitter: @SeanCunningham
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