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Milwaukee NAACP Leader: We Need to Review Policing

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Fred Royal says the country needs to understand why police have violent confrontations with African American men.

Royal is president-elect of the local NAACP chapter. He says the police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Dontre Hamilton, at Red Arrow Park in Milwaukee, punctuate the need for action. 

“Ferguson has certainly brought to the forefront of a lot of people's consciousness, the fact that there are police incidents amongst African Americans that seem to be more violent, when they come in contact with us, than with any other ethnic group," Royal says.

Royal says he thinks many people either fully support the police or the African American men, because the U.S. has never fully discussed the issue of race.

"I don't think it has ever had any closure. Historically, law enforcement has been used to keep the African American community in its place, from slavery to Jim Crow. So this isn't something that has ever been fully vetted. I think it is something that needs to be discussed, so there can be a healing," Royal says.

While Royal says he does not lump all police officers into one category, he is concerned about those who seem to act beyond the scope of their authority.

"For some reason, some (officers) have the notion that our community is more aggressive, and they seem to be more fearful, when they approach us," Royal says.

Royal blames the media for perpetrating the notion that African American men "are this menace to society."

As for who could lead a national discussion, dissecting police practices, Royal points to the federal Department of Justice.

Locally, he commends Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn for engaging in dialog with African American leaders about actions he's taking to address concerns the community has raised.

Royal offers a few examples for, what he believes, would improve local policing. He says, for one, officers need to understand the subtle nuances of different cultures.

"There has to be a recognition that everybody's community doesn't react the same. There are personal traits. I may get boisterous when I get agitated, or when I'm trying to express my point, my arms may move more freely when I talk, but that doesn't mean I'm being aggressive," Royal says.

In addition, Royal says Milwaukee agencies need a better vetting process when recruiting officers.

"Because we're finding that, whether it was the perpetrators who were raping men by doing cavity strip searches in the middle of the street, that there is something wrong with these individuals, that during the selection process, somehow, this needs to be picked up,"  Royal says.

Royal's advice to people when police approach: "Do what they ask you do to, don't be confrontational. If you feel your rights have been violated, quickly right those incidents down and report them to the proper channels that have can have an impact.

"Having raised two black males in the city, I've always told them, if you come across an incident where you have a run-in with the police department, act as if your life depends on it, because it does," Royal says.

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