BUFFALO, N.Y (WIVB) — The Buffalo Common Council hopes to build better relationships between communities and their police department with the help of people living in those neighborhoods. A new group intends to bridge the gap between the council’s police oversight committee and the public.
“My goal is to make a difference,” said Willie Smith.
21-year-old Willie Smith is determined to help bridge the gap between his east side neighborhood and Buffalo police.
“They don’t have a voice. You know they’re not being heard, they’re issues aren’t being heard and I just want to serve as that connecting piece,” said Smith, who’s a member of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative in Buffalo.
Smith is one of several people in the new Community Advisory group that will work directly with the Common Council’s Police Oversight Committee.
The group is made up of 11 people, who represent a range of issues, neighborhoods, expertise and generations. They will make recommendations to the council and BPD on how community and police relationships can be improved.
More than 50 people applied for the voluntary group including Steven Sanyu. He says there’s a disconnect between the Burmese community and officers.
“Especially with the language barrier, even when they have an issue they cannot call directly to the police department most of them reach out to me first as a community leader,” said Steven Sanyu, director Burmese Community Services.
The group includes several people who are part of different organizations including the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, WNY Anti-Violence Project and even the National Lawyers Guild.
“You have to have varying perspectives,” said Yasmin Young, Radio personality and Marketing and Promotions Director at Town Square Media Buffalo.
Yasmin Young is also part of the group. She says she hopes this is the first step building a better relationship between police and the people they’re sworn to serve and protect.
“I want to be able to voice some of those concerns, not just voice those concerns but be able to come up with solutions. Because I think that’s the only way that we’ll really have a good working relationship,” said Young.
The new Community Advisory Body will have its first meeting Monday. The group will be officially introduced to the Common Council at the next Police Oversight Committee on March 27th.