Bipartisan congressional group looks at Houston’s police-community relations

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Houston is “far ahead” when it comes to bridging divides between residents and law enforcement, Rep. Bob Goodlatte said Thursday after a Houston roundtable with a bipartisan congressional working group dedicated to exploring community-police relations.

The roundtable came as part of a day-long Bayou City stop for the Policing Strategies Working Group. Along with the private discussion with mayor, district attorney and other local leaders, visiting representatives got a tour of the county jail, federal lock-up and juvenile detention center.

“During our time here we have discussed how we can best strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the communities that we serve,” said Godlatte, a Virginia Republican. “It’s imperative that we come together to address violent attacks on police officers and instances of excessive force by police officers.”

The 12-member working group initially formed in mid-2016, just after last July’s Dallas police shootings. The aim has been to stop at cities around the country and gather ideas to create legislation to prevent future attacks on police, improve police accountability and boost community-police relations.

“The idea of this task force is to look police-community relation in the eye and to be able to respond to concerns in the community, while responding to concerns of police, law enforcement and bringing those two entities together,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee told reporters during a press conference.

Some of the hot topics during Thursday’s discussion included bail reform, community policing and Mayor Sylvester Turner‘s Complete Communities Initiative.

Afterward, Goodlatte praised the Houston stop as productive and singled out the city as a source of inspiration for others.

“I must say that Houston, compared to some other communities around the country, is far ahead in learning how to address this and understanding that it is an ongoing issue,” he said.

“But the kind of dialogue that has been taking place here and the kind of leadership that has been shown here needs to be translated to other communities all across the country.”

Although the working group is focused on making change at the federal level, Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen said the discussion could guide local policy as well.

“We had a very candid conversation, a very open dialogue, that is going to help us all move forward and develop strategies both at the federal level and at the local level that will help us improve what do,” he said.

“I think we’re on the road to making some real changes.”

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