Heartland group takes on issue of race relations and the police

CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - Ongoing unrest in Ferguson, Missouri has highlighted the issue of race and how it relates to policing our streets. Thursday night, racial issues were put on the table at a meeting in Carbondale.

More than 20 people from the Carbondale community and beyond met at the Church of the Good Shepard in Carbondale to discuss several issues.

Interim Carbondale Police Chief Jeff Grubs attended the meeting.

Thursday evening, for the first time since the Racial Justice Coalition formed, members posed questions to police about race relations in Carbondale.

Grubbs says he is committed to racial justice in Carbondale.

Ella Lacey, a member of the Carbondale community says she believes Grubbs is working hard to improve the community, but, has more work to do.

"Some of the officers has been around longer than he has," Lacey said. "So, it's probably going to take more than a few administrative sessions to get them to come around."

He discussed recent community outreach initiatives he helped foster as interim police chief. He helped institue the Crime Stoppers initiative, has created educational programs fro children, and is working to place a school resource officer in Carbondale's elementary schools.

Grubbs took over as interim police chief after Jody O'Guinn was dismissed August 2014.

Pastor Sonja Ingebritsen of the Church of the Good Shepard in Carbondale says a local group, the Racial Justice Coalition, recognized the need to discuss perceived racial injustices in Carbondale long before a black teen was shot by a white police officer igniting at times violent protests on the streets of Ferguson.

Locally, Pastor Ingebritsen says some of the same dynamics that helped create racial tension in Ferguson exist in Carbondale. The pastor says some members of the Racial Justice Coalition noticed a disproportionate number of African-American youth in the local justice system and began to investigate why it was happening.

Now, with a Grand Jury decision expected this month on whether or not to indict Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, Pastor Ingebritsen hopes the local group can help offer a constructive outlet for any anger that may arise instead of a destructive outlet like what has occasionally been seen in Ferguson.

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