Chester, Pa. (WTXF) Officials with the US Department of Justice came to Chester Thursday night to hear from residents about the city's police department and did they get an earful.
The event was billed as a listening session. But it really was a venting session with a parade of resident providing blistering criticism to a panel with the Department of Justice Office of Community Policing.
"It's a very candid assessment so it's going to point to some of the deficiencies in the department but more importantly what are the things and steps the department can do to remedy those problems" said Nobel Wray, who leads the DOJ project to help police officers have better relationships with it's residents.
"A white officer comes up and puts his gun right in my face.. then they ransacked my car. Nothing found in it" residents like Robert Flavor told the panel about recent stop and frisk encounters he says were illegal.
Others took issue with the lack of spanish speaking officers to police brutality. The small crowd at the Widener University auditorium
"This room should be swarmed with people. It should be people standing outside this door" said Delphine Matthews of Philadelphia. Her son was shot by Chester Police in 2014. She says she never got an official review of her son's case.
The public input session is the first step in a 6 month program by the DOJ's Office of Community Policing. After the review the panel will come back with recommendations of future changes in policies, training and overall department culture. The federal review was requested by the Chester Police Department itself. Although police and city officials were purposely asked not to attend the meeting to get a "frank assessment" of community attitudes toward police.
"For the first time, we'll see if this department is serious about moving on, building trust, community policing and making sure that they are engaged in constitutional policing" said Wray, who is a former police chief in Madison, Wisconsin.
The same DOJ community police review also lead to big changes in the Philadelphia and Camden Police departments. The task force will make recommendations early next year and will be in Chester for the next 2 years to oversea implementation of any department changes.