CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - About 170 people are expected to attend Thursday night’s Bridging the Difference conversation. The conversation will be held a Johnson C. Smith University.
Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Kerr Putney believes having these uncomfortable conversations will help bring a divided city together before the RNC comes to town in 2020.
Shaun Corbett believes Putney's idea will work.
Corbett helped establish the group Cops and Barbers a few years ago. Corbett believes Putney is the man who can make these candid conversations turn into something meaningful.
“The chief is not only willing to have the conversation,” Cops and Barbers Leader Shaun Corbett said. “He’s willing to do the work.”
Corbett says these new conversations are just a continuation of what he started years ago when he wanted to improve dialogue between the community and cops.
"Now you are just able to incorporate all these different entities," Corbett said. "Not just Cops and Barbers, you got the clergy involved - you have so many different aspects involved to make it a better conversation."
The Cops and Barbers leader says the only way Bridging the Difference conversations will work is people have to come to the meetings honest and ready to meet people half way.
“I hate going to meetings where things like that everybody agrees. You want the uncomfortable conversations,” Corbett said. You want the in your face - this is how I feel and this is how I feel and now we have to figure out how do we meet in the middle - how do we find that common ground - those are the best conversations.”
The community believes Putney's assignment is needed and could make a difference. They have not heard about his exercise but do know the RNC is coming to town.
"There will definitely be factors that come in with the RNC that will try to be divisive," Charlotte neighbor Anne Sauls said. "But I think Charlotte is very friendly and welcoming and smart community."
Putney believes the city is divided. He believes to bring communities together there has to be conversations to help people understand each other. Charlotte's top cop believes if these understandings between diverse people happen before the RNC, the city will be better off.
"We all live different lives," Charlotte Neighbor Jake Foss said. "And if you don't know how somebody else is living, it's hard to understand if you don't have a conversation."
The goals of these conversations is Involve, Understand and Mitigate challenges and issues in advance of the RNC. The goal is the people who participate in these talks will be used as ambassadors to the city if things get out of hand during the RNC. Corbett hopes the conversations will continue even after the RNC leaves town.
"These are not the conversations you have once or twice and you forget about them," Corbett said. "You have to constantly continue to have these conversations."
The next conversation is Dec. 6. To learn more about this program click here.