The Kansas city of Wichita has cooked up a brilliant idea.
On July 17, hundreds of people showed up to a Sunday barbecue in Wichita’s McAdams Park, which was hosted by Black Lives Matter activists and city police officers. The “First Steps Cookout” included free food — provided by the police, the community and local businesses — and the opportunity to have open conversations with law enforcement.
“Very good vibe. Very good vibe. It’s everything I was hoping for,” Wichita police chief Gordon Ramsay told KWCH.
Protesters had planned to march on July 17, but after Ramsay spoke with community organizers for the Black Lives Matter movement after a peaceful July 12 protest, the two sides decided to break bread on Sunday instead.
“First thing we want to do is break that boundary and break that barrier, the second thing we want to do is start that conversation,” A.J. Bohannon, a Black Lives Matter organizer, who also helped organize the cookout told KSN News.
Chief Ramsay also led a question-and-answer session during the gathering, allowing those in the community to voice their concerns. And those in attendance got pretty candid with police.
One person wondered if the black community was being bought off with food, another thought that the barbecue was taking attention away from the real cause of tension between people of color and police, The Wichita Eagle reported. Another person asked about weeding bad officers out of the department.
“Loud and clear I have zero tolerance for racial profiling or racial bias,” Ramsay said, according to the news outlet.
The police chief also made the announcement that all Wichita officers will now be outfitted with body cameras and all interactions between citizens and police will be recorded.
“If you feel mistreated, I want to know about it,” Ramsay added during the Q&A.
The turnout was especially encouraging after the events that unfolded earlier in the day in Baton Rouge — which left three officers dead and three wounded.
“This isn’t something we’re going to change overnight or tonight,” Ramsay said, according to KWCH. “It’s just going to take continual effort on everybody’s part. And work on policy changes, relationships. And that’s what’s going to get to the heart of the issues.”