Our View: Continuing dialogue needed for change

Change is rarely easy, and talk is often cheap.

Yet, sometimes transformation is only achieved by encouraging the right people to talk to each other.

Knowing that makes us hopeful for the Rochester Police Policy Oversight Commission's plan to hold a community dialogue on finding ways to decrease violence and increase respect. Rochester Police Chief Roger Peterson noted true change needs to come from the state and federal levels, but community change can support a larger effort.

Rochester and the surrounding region can start conversations that could be heard throughout the nation. Yet, they must start with single voices and people being willing to step forward.

It will also take a continued effort.


After the Post-Bulletin helped sponsor a dialogue on race and law enforcement issues surrounding 2014 grand jury verdicts in Staten Island and Ferguson, Mo., we heard many conversations about continuing to hold similar community dialogues, but those voices eventually went silent.

Granted, other venues occasionally arise, such as the Women on Wednesdays presentation "Growing up Black in Rochester" held in January, but they are fleeting.

We need a conversation that endures and has purpose beyond reacting to individual events. We need a forum that brings people together, allows them to walk away with new ideas for the community and offers a chance to return to share additional insights.

While it will likely start with talking about problems and conflict, it needs to go further. The effort needs to develop actions that can be taken locally and potentially spread to other communities.

As oversight commission members work with Rochester for Justice to plan its first community dialogue, we would suggest they also start discussing the follow-up dialogue.

Then, the next step is making sure the community — the whole community — knows it's invited.

From day one, we've applauded Peterson's effort to create the policy oversight commission and the commission members' dedication to guiding police policy so it meets community expectations, However, the group tends to fall short with communication.

Monday's meeting, which featured Peterson's call for change, is a prime example. The meeting was announced on the city's website, but details beyond time and place were lacking. No meeting agenda was posted; the public had little chance of finding out what would be discussed.


Better communication is needed to produce change. Such communication will bring more opinions to the table.

We've already seen fractured opinions in our communities, our state and our nation. Many people already assume they have the answers, but too often they fail to see other perspectives. Even with similar goals, differing viewpoints will likely spur contrasting plans on how to achieve them.

That's the reason broader discussions are needed. We won't necessarily find the answers within a single dialogue, but perhaps we can establish a goal and a plan for the next meeting. Small steps will take us a long way if we endure with dedication.

As Peterson noted there are a lot of issues needing to be addressed and many conversations to be had. Change won't come as fast we'd like.

Unlike the news of tragedy, which can pierce our hearts in an instant, healing takes time and effort.

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