Garfield Avenue residents and Elkhart police officers gather at - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Garfield Avenue residents and Elkhart police officers gather at meeting to discuss recent tension

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Tensions have been high between Garfield Avenue residents and Elkhart police recently. On Friday night, officers and community members gathered to have a meeting where both sides could share their concerns.

Much of the tension created has to do with an incident that occurred back on July 3rd. According to an affidavit, an Elkhart police officer approached a 21-year-old man who police say was obstructing traffic. Police say the man attacked the officer and it took multiple officers to take the man into custody. The man was tased twice during the arrest and the officer had a fractured eye socket.

The meeting was held at Agape Missionary Baptist Church. Pastor Dannell Brown says he has spoken with residents of Garfield Ave. and they have a negative perception of police officers. "They have a view of police officers that only is from the back of a squad car," Brown said.

Officers from the Elkhart Police Department addressed the crowd first. "We need you guys. You don't understand how many murders the neighbor has solved for us."Assistant Chief Laura Koch said.

Then residents took turns sharing their opinions on how they view police officers. Tiffany Gaylord used to live on Garfield Ave., but still lives in the area. She says officers need to learn how to better communicate with the community.

"You can't think we're calling Superman and get the Green Goblin. You calling for help and you get terror,” Gaylord said. “It makes the situation worse."

Both sides agreed there is no simple solution to resolving the tension, but Gaylord says the meeting was a stepping stone. "We need them just as much as they need us. So it's a two-way street and both of us have to stay on that street and we both have to be going in the same direction," Gaylord said.

Community members say they've felt targeted even when they've done nothing wrong, especially those living on the Garfield block. But police told the crowd officers are simply following their training. They say there is no targeting going on.

In the end, Pastor Brown says the goal of the meeting was simply to let both sides get everything out in the open. "We want the residents to feel as if they're being served and protected. We want the police officers to feel that they're being respected," Brown said.

The Elkhart police say there is talks to bring back a citizens academy program which is designed to create better relationships with community members. This programs allows residents to come to the police department once a week and spend time with different units. This is meant to help residents understand how and why officers do what they must do during an officer's patrol.

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