Discussion about Police and Race in Luzerne County

WILKES-BARRE -- Law enforcement in Luzerne County is trying to build more trust with young minorities.

More than 20 agencies met Friday in Wilkes-Barre to start a dialogue about police relations with kids of color at Mount Zion Baptist Church.

It's a place where people go to worship every week, but on this day, it was a place where Luzerne County leaders met, no matter faith or color, to build a stronger community.

"It is directed to kids, but it's also directed to law enforcement," said Theresa Kline, Luzerne County Juvenile Probation community liaison. "It's to bring the two groups together, to try to understand, have a better understanding of each other."

The session was put on by disproportionate minority contacts or DMC. it's a statewide group whose name refers to the disproportionate number of minority youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system.

"The relationship between young people and officers often contributes to misunderstandings that can lead to young people being arrested in situations where an arrest could have been avoided," explained Rhonda McKitten, PA Disproportionate Minority Contacts.

Pastor Michael Brewster often hears youth saying they're targets of police.

"As long as there's an attitude that exists in the hearts of people that view people differently just on the color of their skin, they're going to experience things others won't experience," said Pastor Brewster.

Alma Johnson has a new baby and lives in Wilkes-Barre. She believes police attitudes toward black children can be negative. She hopes this conversation keeps going.

"Keep it open," she said. "There should always be open communication with police and people, especially if police are the one's we're supposed to go to if we need help."

The next meeting in November plans to include kids from across Luzerne County in a forum with police.