CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice and other ministers met with Charlotte City Mayor Vi Lyles, Police Chief Johnny Jennings, and Charlotte City Manager Marcus Jones Wednesday morning.
The meeting was initially to discuss how to deal with protests when the verdict for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was made. He was charged with the death of George Floyd.
The verdict came back guilty on all charges.
There were no protests in Charlotte, so instead of canceling the meeting - the mayor met anyway with the clergy to discuss how to make things better in the community.
“Why don’t we come together when things are relatively calm,” Rev. Dr. Rodney Sadler said. “And think about how do we strategize to improve the nature of the city. How do we make the adequate change to our police department.”
The Charlotte Faith Community wants to use the Chauvin verdict as a way to push for real police reform. They wonder would it be better to add more counselors and experts who can de-escalate matters instead of adding more police officers.
“I think far too often police come in and they force you to comply,” Sadler said. “What if we had people who were more respect motivated and their goal was not to force you to comply but to sort of encourage you to move in a good direction.”
Sadler believes city leaders were listening and taking notes about the suggestions. Clergy shared their personal feelings about living in today’s climate. This is what one minister said to the police chief.
“She has to pray every day when her children and her husband go out,” Sadler said. “Because she is afraid they may not come back.”
While city leaders think about those suggestions, Pastor Dwayne Walker is encouraging his church members to never give up.
“Keep hope alive,” Walker said. “That’s what my message will be - keep hope alive. We have to keep pushing - keep praying - keep insisting that justice is realized for everyone and in the meantime do it in a peaceful way.”
Walker conducted a virtual noon-day bible study Wednesday. He opened the service with his jubilation of the Chauvin verdict. He also said there was a pain because during the trial there were more fatal shootings between police and blacks.
“It never ends,” Walker said. “And that’s been our reality - so we have to continue to fight.”
He reminds his members in the midst of fighting for change and police reform - remember the Christian way to get things done.
“You can’t fight evil with evil,” Walker said. “You can’t fight hate with more hate - you have to temper it with love.”
While ministers pray for change with Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department - they don’t want to grow weary waiting for it to happen.”
“We have to continue to meet,” Sadler said. “We have to continue to talk and we have to continue to put forth the demands.”