CHESTER, S.C. — Leaders in Chester County recently met to pray, address police brutality and how to bring the community together at a unity rally.
The rally was organized by the Chester County Sheriff’s Office, the mayor of Chester and Chester City Police. About 200 people gathered at Cestrian Square in Chester Monday night to talk about what needs to change to address police brutality and racism.
For high school teacher Gail McCullough, change begins when people vote. She came to the rally with voter registration forms.
“I”m here to encourage everyone to the importance of voting,”McCullough said. “I think we have failed to let people know how important it is that they vote.”
For Chester’s Mayor Wanda Stringfellow, change will begin when she presents two new ordinances before council this month.
The first will be to have a series of sessions called Street Law 101 for young people, particularly young black people, to know their rights. The second ordinance is to have a citizens review board on police arrests.
“It will be a committee of citizens, professionals that will review these grievances and come back with recommendations to council,” Stringfellow said.
The rally was also a place for difficult conversations, like the unique challenges black officers face. Al Crawford is a veteran deputy with the Chester County Sheriff’s Office.
“When I’m off duty, I don’t carry my weapon with me. Because I’m afraid. And I’m not saying that to make the officers feel bad. It’s just the truth,” Crawford said. “I’m six foot five, two hundred pounds. And if I’m walking through Wal-Mart with my weapon, what’s going to happen?”
“When I go home at night, I take this off,” said Officer Makkesharia Tobias with Chester Police, “I’m a human, I’m a civilian just like everybody. Nothing has changed and we all bleed red.”
Sheriff Max Dorsey says it’s a long road for officers to restore the trust that was lost when George Floyd was killed.
“The things that officer did, he destroyed some trust that we’ve been working on everyday in our community,” Dorsey said.
“The only way it’s going to change is if law enforcement does stuff like this and goes out into the community and does outreach,” said Randall Marsh with the Chester Police Department.