FBI director: New Haven is a model for police-minority relations

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NEW HAVEN — Community groups and law enforcement officials met on Monday in an effort to build bridges.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey and NAACP Chairperson Roslyn Brock headlined a conference centered on community policing.

While the Building Bridges Conference, aimed at strengthening the relationship between law enforcement and the black community was scheduled months ago, recent events around the country, including at Yale University over the last week, have racism and inclusion at the forefront.

Just last week, hundreds of Yale students rallied after being fed up with how the university handled recent racially-charged incidents. A new student organization, called Next Yale, even marched on Yale President Peter Salovey’s property in the early morning hours of Friday demanding change.

The event was initially organized by New Haven-area clergy, who contacted local federal prosecutors after nine black parishioners were shot to death at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, by a white man last June.

The gathering observed a moment of silence to remember the victims of the Paris attacks.

Director Comey praised New Haven, calling the Elm City  a model for the nation in improving relations between law enforcement and minority communities.

Comey said law enforcement and the communities they serve have been growing more distant in the wake of highly publicized violence by police. He said the two sides can pull closer together with programs like Project Longevity, which brings together police and community members in New Haven, Hartford and Bridgeport.

A Yale study found the New Haven program resulted in five fewer group-member involved homicides and shootings per month.

Meanwhile, Brock said the NAACP is calling for mandated police body cameras, cultural competency training for officers and more diverse police forces.

There were three panel discussions during the 4-hour event, on topics such as communities at risk, civil rights investigations and prosecutions and Connecticut’s community and law enforcement partnership.

Back in October, New Haven police officers hit the streets, literally walking various routes in hopes of creating bonds with residents in neighborhoods all over the city.

Some of those who attended the conference included members of the Yale Black Law Students Association and the Yale Law School, along with officers in the New Haven Police Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Greater New Haven Clergy Association.