Police body cameras, support for Black-owned businesses proposed by Lakeland residents at race relations forum

Lakeland City Commissioners held a race relations forum Monday, but they weren’t there to speak or discuss. Monday was all about listening.

"It is a time for us to hear some of the human interactions that have existed and tonight's ultimate goal for us to increase understanding," Lakeland Mayor Bill Mutz said.

Dozens of Lakeland residents showed up to tell their stories and offer ideas for the future.

"There is a distrust because of things that are happening. Not all cops are racist. Let me make that very clear, but one bad apple will spoil the whole bunch so to speak," one speaker told the commission.

Ideas ranged from support for Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs to mandatory body cameras for Lakeland police officers.

Others want to see more immediate actions.

"We demand a ban on the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper spray among public demonstrators," a resident told the room.

And finally, a message of compassion and inclusion.

"I cannot say I love God if my neighbor suffers,” Tim Mitchell, of Parker Street Ministries, said. “We as white, we as brown and we as yellow cannot say we are for anything if we allow anything to effect of one of us.”