Black community leaders and local law enforcement agencies virtually gather for town hall

Protests across the county over the death of George Floyd are kicking starting conversations within local Bay Area communities between Black community leaders and local law enforcement agencies. Sunday, the Manatee and Sarasota county chapters of the NAACP and local law enforcement agencies held their first town hall.

It's a dialogue both the NAACP and local law enforcement agree needs to happen.

"We're listening and we're hearing what the constituency wants and what the community needs are and I think collectively we're banding together to work forward on that," North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison said.

Listening was top of mind for organizers who put together Sunday's event. It featured nine law enforcement officers, including area police chiefs and both sheriffs.

"This opportunity we have in law enforcement right now is about education and understanding each other. Understanding what the issues are in the community about how they want police to respond to their issues and concerns," Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette Dipino said.

Body-worn police cameras were one of the main topics of discussion.

"Whether you were the officer, like I said, or the person that's being arrested, if you were wrong it was documented and at least it is documented correctly," NAACP Sarasota County Branch President Trevor Harvey said.

Currently, body-worn cameras are in use at North Port police. The agency joined the shortlist in 2019 of Bay-Area law enforcement agencies with the cameras. They join the Pasco County Sheriff's Office and Tampa police, who received cameras in June. Both NAACP chapters are hoping more agencies invest in the technology.

"It was an opportunity to hear from the law enforcement leadership community and understand their mindset, their heart and the culture of which they're fostering into their local agency," NAACP Manatee County Branch President Tarnisha Cliatt said.

LINK: To view the full town hall in its entirety, click here.