New forum series connects community with police

Published 9:22 pm Monday, February 23, 2015

A new series of community forums on public safety is set to kick off this Saturday with a discussion about community interaction with the police.

Called 7 BLOCC, with the seven referring to the seven boroughs in the city and BLOCC standing for “Building Links Of Community Connections,” three more events are planned in the series spread out throughout the year.

“Due to a lot of the recent events across the country, we kind of felt there was a need to educate our community,” said Tina Paul, assistant principal of Lakeland High School, who is helping to plan the event. “We don’t want anything close to what happened in Ferguson to happen here. To prevent that, we have to educate them.”

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Paul said Dr. Steven Blunt, pastor of First Baptist Church Mahan Street, and Police Chief Thomas Bennett were the masterminds of the forum series.

“We would like for the public to understand more about our operating procedures and why we do the things we do,” said Sgt. Andre Sparks of the Suffolk Police Department. “It’s a way to build relationships between the police department and the citizens.”

Sgt. Herman Kee said the discussion will focus on encounters with police both during traffic stops — a frequent problem area — and during other encounters. There will be practical exercises demonstrating what to do and not to do during an encounter with police to ensure everyone stays safe.

For example, Kee said, keeping hands in sight, limiting movement inside the vehicle and not getting out of the vehicle unless instructed to do so are all good tips to have a positive interaction with police during a traffic stop.

“We want to be proactive rather than reactive,” said Mary Herndon of First Baptist Church Mahan Street.

Herndon said light refreshments will be served during the event. Pre-registration is strongly encouraged but not required.

“We don’t want people to shy away thinking they have to register,” Sparks said.

The next 7 BLOCC forum is tentatively set for April 18, but a topic has yet to be announced.

This Saturday’s event will take place from 10 a.m. to noon at the church, 112 Mahan St. To register or for more information, contact Sparks at 514-7998 or, or Mary Herndon at 539-6623 or