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Law enforcers aim to improve community relations, reduce shootings

New York State

More than 200 police officers, prosecutors and other law enforcers wrapped up a two day seminar in Saratoga Tuesday that aimed to reduce gun violence.

The conference put emphasis on improving relations between minority communities and law enforcement.

Mike Green is the head of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. He says it's important that individuals who come in contact with police feel they are being treated fairly.

“If your policies and the way you carry those policies out are fair, and are perceived by the community to be fair, they’re much more likely to follow the rules, engage in law-abiding behavior, and work with law enforcement as opposed to being antagonistic towards law enforcement,” Green told WBFO.

The conference drew officials from 17 counties, which account for 87 percent of violent crime in the state outside of New York City. Officials from Erie, Niagara and Chautauqua Counties were in attendance.

Green says that to lower gun violence, it's important for the public’s trust in law enforcement to extend to minority communities.

“The unfortunate reality is that most of the shootings and homicides in these 17 counties happen in our urban centers where we have concentrations of people of color,” said Green.

Green said law enforcement agencies must work to encourage community dialogue and participation in the justice system.

“To the extent that there are police shootings, if you’ve put in the time, and you’ve built constructive dialogue with your community, and you’ve got open lines of communication, and they feel like they have input, when you have one of those incidents, that level of trust is going to go a long way toward people saying ‘Ok, we’ll wait, we won’t riot in the street, but we’ll wait for the police department to investigate. We have faith in our police department,’” said Green.

The conference featured Yale professor Tom Tyler, a leading expert on why people obey the law. Also featured was Birmingham, Alabama Police Chief A.C. Roper, who is known for his zero-tolerance approach to law enforcement, targeting low-level crimes to combat what he calls a "culture of lawlessness."

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