Community Q&A with Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania

As police departments face scrutiny following George Floyd’s death, Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania is reaching out to the public to start a discussion about important issues.

In this time of tension, Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania says he’s here to simply listen. “You have to look backward before you move  forward. I think that’s what we’re hoping to accomplish.”

Over the weekend, Chief Papania and Jeffrey Hulum of ‘Extend a Hand, Help a Friend,’ crafted a series of community Q&A events on discussing how police and citizens can work to solve problems. Hulum said, “Everybody’s got to come together and work together to reduce racism, to reduce the infractions what happens with law enforcement and communities as well.”

With social distancing still a priority, citizens had the chance to have their voices heard via social media.

Papania’s first session dealt with the topic of police interactions in minority communities, something that local leaders say must be a priority moving forward. Gulfport City Councilmember Kenneth ‘Truck’ Casey said, “They get out and talk, shoot a little basketball, that kind of stuff. That’s the interaction. You can’t just ride by and just don’t pay anybody any attention.”

As these discussions continue in the days and weeks to come, the chief hopes this first step can lead to more constructive relationships. “We all saw something very graphic and very concerning and for a lot of people, it’s indicative of a bigger concern and I think we need to take that head on and get about the business of solving this.”

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