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Cops, community coming together

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By LPR Staff

Editor/POST-REGISTER

 

As communities across the nation explode with tensions between citizens and police, Lockhart has chosen a peaceful path. Rather than succumb to pressure from the fringes, Police Chief Mike Lummus has come together with several members of the community to form a Community Resource Committee, dedicated

to strengthening the relationships between the Lockhart Police Department and the neighborhoods that might feel under-represented by law enforcement.

“We were actually fortunate that we started this before anything bad happened,” Lummus said, referring to the April shooting involving a Caldwell County Sheriff’s Deputy. “And that was my main goal, to have this line of communication open in case something happened, and not to have to react after something happened.”

The committee, hand-picked by Lummus and by other members of the group, is geared not toward making excuses for either those who break or those who uphold the law, but rather to bring a deeper understanding between the two.

“The police, really, are a last resort,” Committee member Bernie Rangel said. “If you get to the point that you have to call the police, that’s your last option, and if the police can’t solve your problem, then there is no solution. We need to remember that the police have a job, and if they’re there, it’s because we asked them to be there.”

Rangel, along with other members of the committee, including Hattie Carter, Andy Govea and Vida Ecklund, met with Lummus last week for their periodic get-together, not only to discuss the emerging national situation, but also the tone and tenor of relationships in Lockhart.

Much of the conversation was geared toward the Committee questioning certain actions of police, and Lummus using decades of personal experience on the streets to help them understand why police officers sometimes react the way they do.

“One of the reasons this is so important,” Lummus said, “Is so that people have someone they can ask, a friend or a neighbor, about something that’s going on, and the people know where to go to get answers.”

Lummus said members were welcome to contact the Department, or him personally, to receive information on incidents of concern, and that he has ordered officers to be as cooperative in those requests as the law allows.

“Sometimes, of course, there are things we can’t say in an open investigation, but we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that we’re addressing possible concerns, and trying to keep the rumors to a minimum.”

One such situation arose after the April shooting. Members of the Community Resource Committee were able to view the dash-cam videos of the incident before they were released to the public, and able to discuss the actions taken amongst themselves, their neighborhoods, and with law enforcement.

“It was disturbing,” Carter said. “But when we saw it, we had a better understanding of what happened and why it happened.”

Still, she said, a preferable option would have been use of a taser, if such equipment had been available.

“We know that deputies don’t carry tasers,” Lummus said. “Lockhart officers do. Additionally, they have rifles that fire bean-bag rounds. We try to equip our officers with everything they need to diffuse a situation before it has to come to that.”

Additionally, members are allowed, at each meeting, to choose a date and time at random, and then view a traffic stop or other interactions between the police and the community that occurred near that time. The videos are not pre-screened, and are open for discussion afterward.

“So far, I don’t think we’ve seen anything that we thought was wrong,” Carter said. “But there have been things that happen that we have questions about.”

The best way to have those questions addressed, Lummus said, is to allow a forum for the questions to be asked.

Committee members are currently discussing ways to not only promote their work, but to bring more people into the fold.

“It’s one thing to come here and talk about things, but we need to take some actions,” Ecklund said.

To that end, the Committee is considering a series of events, including participation in upcoming sporting events, not only to remind the community that the police stand behind them, but to remind police that the community supports them, as well.

“I think of it like a marriage,” Lummus said. “The relationship isn’t going to be strong unless both sides are giving 100 percent to make it strong. And that’s what we’re trying to do here.”

For additional information about the Citizen Resource Committee, contact Lummus at the Lockhart Police Department administrative office, (512) 398-4401, or approach a member of the committee. Follow future editions of the Post-Register for events that will be scheduled in the future.


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