JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Nearly 100 students and local law enforcement agents gathered for a summit in Onslow County Friday meant to serve as a springboard for future discussions on police and community relations.
Students were chosen from across Onslow County schools to represent their classmates.
“I think when they get in situations a lot of times our officers are created as bad guys,” said Greyson Goodson, a senior at White Oak High School. “Instead of showing how we care for them, I want to see how they care for us.”
The summit placed students and law enforcement face to face in an open environment, where questions were encouraged.
Members of the Jacksonville police, the North Carolina Highway Patrol, Onslow County Sheriff’s Office, NCIS and more attended the event.
Law enforcement officers worked one on one with small groups of students, with the purpose of debunking myths about police brutality and addressing students’ fears.
“We’re not the enemy,” said Sheriff Hans Miller, Onslow County. “We’re the good guys. Communication is the key to leadership. If we fail to communicate, we fail to lead.”
Senior Jacksonville High student Nia Fripp said she walked away with a new understanding.
“The media always mix up headlines and stuff and make it seem like stories are something that they’re not,” said Fripp. “So it would just make me open my eyes more and not see what I want to see but look at the bigger picture and say OK; what’s happened here?”
Commissioner Million Heir-Williams said the summit was designed to be an exercise in trust and honesty.
“They can walk away saying ‘Number one: I really do live in a safe community. Number two: I have changed my opinions and thoughts about who law enforcement are because they are here to protect and to serve.”
Students and law enforcement officers also divided up into multiple sessions to discuss how social media is impacting community perceptions.
Student advocates from each school will continue to meet with law enforcement throughout the year to express concerns.