Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., are hundreds of miles from York County, but the impact of recent events in those cities were the focus of a meeting Monday night’s town hall-style meeting.
Community leaders came together Monday night at the Freedom Center in Rock Hill for the “Standing on the Rock” town hall-style meeting to discuss the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the chokehold death of Eric Garner and all the demonstrations that have followed.
Law enforcement accountability and the judicial system were discussed in detail to help about 200 people sort through the issues.
In the aftermath of the decision not to indict police officers involved with the deaths of Brown and Garner, the Rev. Herbert Crump of the Freedom Center invited law enforcement, religious, political and the judicial system leaders to the center to address people’s concerns and questions.
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The grand jury decisions not to indict police officers Darren Wilson or Daniel Pantaleo for their involvement in the deaths of Brown and Garner were questioned.
York County magistrate judge Mandrile Young explained how the judicial system is “not in cahoots with the police.”
“No judge worth his weight in integrity” would necessarily side with law enforcement on a criminal case, Young said. A judge has to be a “fair, neutral and detached” figure in every trial, he said.
Rock Hill Police Chief Chris Watts and Capt. Roderick Stinson of the Rock Hill Police Department spoke to the group to clarify traffic stops and the use of force.
Watts said officers receive training on defensive tactics regularly so that “the best way to mitigate any violence” is reiterated.
He said that the state’s criminal justice academy “does not teach” its officers the chokehold nor teach its officers to use it to subdue suspects.
A chokehold would only be used if an officer finds himself or herself in a life-or-death situation, Watts said.
Late Monday, the faith leaders on the panel discussed healing in times of tragedy and the church’s role in helping people unite.
Monday’s meeting was sponsored by the Rock Hill Police Department, the NAACP, the Freedom Center, AME Zion Church, Freedom Temple Ministries and local National Panhellenic Council organizations.