by Jeremy Morrison, Inweekly
For months now, Pensacola’s Citizens Police Advisory Committee has discussed and debated the dynamics between law enforcement and the local community, looking towards providing Mayor Grover Robinson with recommendations for improving this relationship by March.
To date, the committee has held its meetings in Pensacola City Hall, but in February, CPAC plans to hold a pair of town halls to engage the public in the conversation.
Because these town halls will be the first occasions that CPAC has directly engaged the public on the sensitive issue of police-community relations, Dr. Cedric Alexander, a retired law enforcement official who is shepherding CPAC, advised the exchanges with the public may be tense and confrontational, amounting to an emotional release. CPAC Chairman Drew Buchanan said he welcomed that passion.
“I hope it is lively,” he said. “I hope I’m not in the minority, [but] I’m kinda bored up here, nobody coming to talk to us. It makes me feel like: ‘is this really important?’”
The first CPAC town hall is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 4, at the Fricker Resource Center. The second will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 18, at the Bayview Resource Center. The in-person capacity would be limited, and a live stream online option would be available.
In preparation for the town halls, Dr. Alexander suggested that committee members be ready to field questions about the city’s movement on this front and also view the events as an opportunity to build a relationship with the public.
“Who’s going to talk? Who’s going to answer these questions?” Alexander asked. “Because that may be your opportunity for you to gain a following if you will. Or, it could be an opportunity for people to say ‘awww, I’m not gonna bother with this.’”
He also asked CPAC members to be conscious of the reason for the committee’s existence in the first place—a July 2019 incident during which a former PPD detective shot and killed a Black man, Tymar Crawford, during a traffic stop.
“We’ve got to consider the history of policing in this community, especially in communities of color, where that relationship is strained,” Alexander said. “We didn’t just wake up one morning and put this group together. Something happened.”
As CPAC prepares to engage the broader community in its discussions, the city will also be wading into a national search for a new police chief. Alexander said that this fact, coupled with the more in-depth exploration of community-law enforcement relations occurring at the national level, made CPAC’s mission all the more critical and complicated.
“This is becoming more and more complex and more and more convoluted, and you’ve got to be more thoughtful about it,” Alexander advised.
In other CPAC developments, committee member Charles Bare announced this resignation. Pensacola City Councilwoman Sherri Myers will name his replacement since Bare was her appointment to the committee.