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Race focus of meeting at church Thursday
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Community conversation

What: Discussion on racial profiling
Where: St. Paul United Methodist Church, 705 Summit St., Gainesville
When: 6 p.m. Thursday

The Newtown Florist Club will meet with local law enforcement Thursday for a community conversation on racial profiling and interactions with police.

“On the issue of criminal justice, racial profiling is the top issue for a lot of people when it comes to law enforcement,” said the Rev. Rose Johnson, Newtown’s director.

The community conversation at 6 p.m. Thursday at St. Paul United Methodist Church, 705 Summit St., Gainesville, is the first since the genesis of the Criminal Justice Reform Project for Newtown. The project and others like it, Johnson said, serve as leadership development opportunities.

The project’s director is Quintus Harrison, who was born and raised in Gainesville and is considered a dynamic leader by Johnson.

“He’s been through the criminal justice system (and) has dedicated his life to working in the community,” Johnson said.

The overall focus of the project, Johnson said, is working toward a deeper understanding of police and keeping people out of the prison system.

“I think we will be able to see through the lens of their experiences how we can improve, how law enforcement can improve their interaction with people on the ground that they come in contact with, and we can have a better understanding just from listening to law enforcement about how and why they do the things they do,” she said.

Gainesville Police Sgt. Kevin Holbrook said he and Chief Carol Martin hope to continue creating and strengthening relationships with the community.

“We are law enforcement officers, but we are people, too,” Holbrook said. “We value this community. This is not necessarily just a job. Most of us live and work in this community together.”

Johnson said this is the first scheduled conversation before another set for October.

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