Springfield NAACP leader urges reflection after Dallas shooting

The community’s relationship with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and the Springfield Police Division has improved dramatically in recent years, said Denise Williams, president of the Springfield NAACP.

But there’s always more work to do.

“I wanted to offer my prayers from the NAACP and also ensure they were protected and taking caution,” Williams said. “I also wanted to extend my thoughts and prayers to make sure the men and women in uniform know we’re standing with them. We stand shoulder to shoulder with both departments. We are trying so hard to make this one community.”

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The protest in Dallas on Thursday was in response to incidents in Louisiana and Minnesota in which two black men were fatally shot by police.

Williams said she considered organizing a vigil or other public event. But for now, she said it’s time for all Clark County residents to stop and reflect.

“I need to be still for a minute and see what God has to say to me because I’m at a loss right now,” Williams said. “The only thing I know to do is be in quietness and prayer.”

Relationships between local law enforcement and Springfield residents are mostly better than in the past, she said. But now is a time for residents to come together to avoid problems occurring in other cities across the U.S.

She also stressed the issue needs constant vigilance, and there are still problems even locally.

“This is not just a black issue,” Williams said. “It’s all races. It’s about all of us and it’s got to end. But the minority of African Americans are the ones who are at risk right now.”

Williams said she reached out to both Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly and Springfield Police Chief Stephen Moody early Friday morning. Both agencies have been in regular contact with Williams, and she said they constantly review local statistics on arrests to see how officers and area residents can build better relationships.

She said she is also trying to build better relationships with the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

“I don’t let two weeks go by without the three of us checking in with each other,” she said of Kelly and Moody.

Despite a good relationship with local law enforcement, Williams can’t remember a time in recent decades in which tension between the black community and police has been so high nationally. This week’s events and those in Ferguson, Mo., sparked memories of mistrust and outbreaks of violence between residents and police in Dayton in the 1960s, she said.

“It’s like we’re reliving this again,” she said. “Could this happen? It’s happening now.”

She urged calm in the coming days.

“I want to make sure my voice reaches all races,” Williams said. “We need to stay peaceful. If people want to demonstrate, peacefully demonstrate, as hard as it is. I know people are very angry that this is happening and I’m angry, too, but we need to remain calm, prayerful and peaceful.”

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