Lawmakers, local leaders aim to improve race relations - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Lawmakers, local leaders aim to improve race relations

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Protesters took to the streets of New Haven in the name of 'Black Lives Matter' on Friday. (WFSB photo) Protesters took to the streets of New Haven in the name of 'Black Lives Matter' on Friday. (WFSB photo)

Following the events in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas last week, leaders from Connecticut joined together to talk about how to improve relations between police and minorities.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Rep. Rosa DeLauro and New Haven Mayor Toni Harp met at the mayor's office on Monday morning.

Luis Nicholas listened in on the roundtable discussion. He said he's served his time, but isn't able to get a job and said he's still paying for his past.

"I used to be part of the statistics. Assault with a firearm, the same thing they're talking about," Nicholas said.

Lawmakers said they recognize that it's a tense time for the nation. Many demonstrations have been taking place across the country, including in New Haven.

"We need to be talking, but also acting to make sure we address the real hurt and build bridges rather than divide from each other," Blumenthal said.

New Haven said it has made improvements through community policing, putting officers out of the academy on a walking beat for a year, and also a bias training class for new recruits organized by local clergy, something some say could be used in departments across the country.

"You have to change the entire culture in order for something to work. You can write as many policies as you want, talk about fads and slogans and policing, but not until you change a culture, there is no progress," said New Haven Assistant Police Chief Luis Casanova.

One of the suggestions brought up in the meeting is more officers from New Haven, possibly an incentive, to see get them to stay or even move into the city.

On Friday, a Black Lives Matter rally turned into an impromptu march with demonstrators blocking traffic around the city.

The protests were in response to the police-involved shootings of two black in Louisiana and Minnesota.

Last Tuesday, police in Baton Rouge shot and killed 37-year-old Alton Sterling after they responded to a call about a man with a gun.

A day later, 32-year-old Philando Castile was shot to death during a traffic stop. His girlfriend appeared to have streamed the aftermath to social media.

The meeting between Blumenthal, DeLauro and Harp is set for 9 a.m. at Harp's office on Church Street.

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