DeKalb safety chief says community engagement prevents tragic shootings

A key factor in preventing and handling situations like the tragedy in Minnesota, one of the states where a police officer fatally shot a black man last week, is community engagement, DeKalb County's public safety chief told a crowd Saturday and the 2016 DeKalb Neighborhood Summit.

“That department (St. Anthony Police Department) has still yet to this day to give an adequate press conference and tell people in that community here’s what we know,” said Cedric Alexander, DeKalb deputy chief operating officer for public safety. “That doesn’t happen in this county, it has never happened in this county and it never will.”

He praised the level of community engagement by metro Atlanta’s police departments. “I travel the country a lot, but when I come back home to metro Atlanta I see great relationship building and relationships that are stable in and around the metro (area) between community and police,” Alexander said. “And that is so critically and wonderfully important to us as we operate in the time and environment that we are in."

The past week's back-back shootings when police in Minnesota and Louisiana killed two civilians and a sniper killed five officers in Dallas was clearly on people's minds at Saturday's event.

DeKalb County Interim CEO Lee May said to the audience, “Over the past couple of weeks young black men and police officers probably have more in common right now than they probably ever had, and that’s one of fear of one another.”

Alexander said officers “are coming up under some of the most deliberate scrutiny that we have ever witnessed before in the history of this country.”

He, Fire Chief Darnell Fullum and code enforcement director Marcus Kellum were the panelists in a discussion moderated by May.

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