Human Rights Commission holds forum on police, public relationships

Tuesday night, a packed Robert Cherry Civic Center played host to what the Paducah Human Rights Commission called a “Justice for All” discussion.

Commission Chairwoman Dr. Bernice Belt said the topics of civil rights and race, while uncomfortable for some, are important to talk about considering the recent nationwide violence.

“We want to be proactive. We don’t want to wait until a level of violence rises in our community without us being proactive and doing our part,” Belt said.

Thursday’s panel included the McCracken County sheriff, Paducah police chief, mental health experts and the county attorney. Belt said understanding their roles will make for better relationships. 

“Sometimes citizens don’t know what to ask, and so sometimes we just have to stand in the gaff for them so they can become more confidant, more informed and more involved,” Belt told Local 6.

The panel took questions, including about preferential treatment through the court system. Attorney Craig Newbern said he hasn’t seen it here, but says he saw it when he practiced death penalty cases.

“That’s when you really start to see these things take hold. A lot of the cases that got the death penalty was a situation where you had a person that was a minority,” Newbern said.

Sheriff Jon Hayden answered a question that’s been in the news a lot recently: What should you do when you’re stopped and questioned?

“Do what the officer says, and if you think procedurally the officer is making a mistake or doing something he shouldn’t be doing, report it,” he said.

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