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Police chief, civil rights group to discuss community policing
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Newtown Florist Club executive director Rose Johnson leads a crowd gathered Monday, June 1, 2020, in song as hundreds gather in Gainesville in reaction to the death of George Floyd and the issues of police brutality and systemic racism. - photo by Scott Rogers

To know how to police a community is to know the history, culture and lived experiences of the community, the Rev. Rose Johnson said.

While these factors may not be the end-all be-all, they “have to be determining factors in how policing occurs in a community,” said Johnson, who is the executive director of the Gainesville civil rights group known as the Newtown Florist Club.

The florist club’s public policy committee is hosting a conversation with Gainesville Police Chief Jay Parrish Monday, Oct. 11.

The topic for the event was named: “A Law Enforcement Perspective About How Valuing a Communities History, Culture and Lived Experiences Can Foster Improved Community Relations.”

“It provides for us an opportunity to see how policing can be improved, more sensitized, more community connected based on how these perspectives are understood,” Johnson said. “The fact that we’re even able to have this conversation is exciting for us, and we think it will be so informative for the community.”

Newtown Florist Club conversation with Gainesville Police Chief Jay Parrish

What: Facebook Live/Zoom conversation on community policing

When: 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 11

Where: Newtown Florist Club Facebook page

Johnson recalled a recent case in which a veteran and rookie officer responded to a community call. Having knowledge of the family, the dynamics within the household and the community culture, the veteran officer was able to advise the rookie on how to respond.

Parrish responded to questions and requests sent by the group on public policy concerns such as a citizen and police committee and budgeting for community policing.

The police chief said in August 2020 he hoped to create a committee with 10 to 15 diverse community members.

In his response obtained by The Times, Parrish said the project is “still very much a focus of mine,” though it has been delayed by COVID-19. The police chief said he felt the goals cannot be met while meeting virtually, adding that the initial planning process happened back in June.

Regarding budgeting for community policing, Parrish wrote that the budget process for fiscal year 2023 will begin in late winter

“I will take this request in to consideration as we make a budget proposal to city management and city council,” the chief wrote. “I hope to be able to have the police and citizens committee empaneled by then. One of those goals could be to develop and create the written community outreach plan and determine appropriate funding.”

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Gainesville Police Chief Jay Parrish
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