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FLOC, TPD sign pledge for better relations

By Kevin Milliken,
La Prensa Correspondent


The Toledo Police Department (TPD) and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) came to a mutual understanding Fri. evening, Nov. 7, 2014 to improve relations between emergency responders and the Latino community.


The signing of a ceremonial memorandum of understanding comes after the arrest of four Latino teens participating in a program FLOC recently launched to keep young people off the streets and out of gangs. The summer work program called “FLOC Homies” is designed to provide life skills, teach responsibility, and develop an employment history for the teens.


Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins and Deputy Police Chief George Kral attended the signing, witnessed by a packed room of more than 75 people at FLOC headquarters, 1221 Broadway St. The mayor told those gathered that Kral would become Toledo’s police chief once current chief William Moton retires in the next few weeks. Kral signed the memorandum on behalf of local police. Baldemar Velásquez, FLOC founder and president, signed on behalf of the program.


“We had an unfortunate incident here where they took away four of our kids, Homies, in handcuffs,” Velásquez said, who stated that racial profiling continues to haunt residents of Latino backgrounds and make them distrustful and fearful of police. The same can be said, he explained, for families of mixed immigration status who are afraid of deportation and families being broken apart by federal authorities.


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A FLOC message spread across media termed the incident “a recent police raid” involving the TPD canine and gang units. After the meeting, Mayor Collins, himself a retired police officer, downplayed the event as a raid.


“The officers received some information. They arrived here and arrests were made and those arrests were made based upon a crime of violence,” said Mayor Collins.


But that incident prompted Velásquez to contact the mayor and police department. A series of meetings ensued. Mayor Collins suggested the memorandum of understanding.


“I find him to be a man who can reason, talk back and forth and exchange the truth, then come to an agreement,” said Velásquez to the crowd.


“I think there were some misunderstandings that were going on and I think that when we bring our police officers into the neighborhoods, they need to understand the culture and the diversity within the neighborhood,” said Mayor Collins. “I think that was the bigger problem, the communications and the recognition of the strengths and the differences.”


Mayor Collins reminded the crowd that he grew up in the Old South End and graduated from Libbey High School, the son of an Irish immigrant who lived among Latinos as a youth.


“This has got to stop—stopping our kids on the street, pulling our people over,” said the FLOC founder. “I think that if we conduct ourselves in a reasonable way in representing ourselves and we ask the police to do the same, I think both sides stand a lot to gain.”


According to the memorandum of understanding, Toledo police will recognize FLOC’s offices “as a gathering place to pursue the peace-making process among feuding factions in our neighborhoods and community.”


“That's what we need in this community. We need peace. We need unity,” said Daniel González, a FLOC organizer. “This gives them an opportunity to recognize something positive about a hard-working community that is often bypassed or disregarded.”


Toledo police officers and firefighters, starting next summer, will undergo six hours of training on Latino history, culture, and other aspects of the community. The aim is to help first responders to better understand Toledo’s growing Latino community and prevent any future flare-ups.


But police administrators first have to develop a curriculum with FLOC’s help and get it state approval. The training will be given through the city’s police and fire academies to entry-level cadets. The mayor emphasized the lesson plans will deal with cultural differences, immigration-related issues, and the "unique needs of the Latino community as it relates to the police partnership."


“You can sign any document you want, but it's only paper. What matters is what you do in practice, the mechanisms you put on the ground,” said Velásquez. “This is what is going to trigger the mechanisms on the ground with the police. We need to correct those relationships. Everything is in those relationships. I don't care whether it's personal or its institutional.”


“No child in this community should wake up to the sounds of gunfire. That should not happen.


No 18-year old should be showing up in a church for the first time in their life in a box for a funeral-- and that is what's happening,” said the mayor. “You have my word. We will make a difference in the quality of life.”


The mayor told the crowd that two police officers already are walking a beat down Broadway, a form of community policing he wants to increase in Toledo, so officers get to know individual neighborhoods and its residents.


“This is a major step, in my opinion, in bringing together the cultural differences,” said Mayor Collins. “So when police officers come into their neighborhood, they will understand the district, the wonderful history of the Mexican community. This is a celebration. This is a new day for us.”


“We must not be slack in our efforts. We need to do our part,” said González about the renewed relationship with Toledo police.


Copyright © 1989 to 2014 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 11/11/14 19:15:02 -0800.




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