FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - The United States Justice Department is taking a closer look at the Fort Worth Police Department. At the center are questions over trust between police and the communities they serve.
Fort Worth has been chosen, along with five other U.S. cities, to be studied and analyzed as part of a pilot program called the National Initiative for Building Trust and Justice.
Attorney General Eric Holder made the announcement as tensions between police and their communities continue to boil over across the country.
Kyve Tatum, a Fort Worth community activist says the announcement is welcomed news. "Fifty years since Selma [Alabama] we are finally going to take an in-depth look at how the police department treats its poor, inner city community and those who are of color."
According to Tatum, Fort Worth has had a long history of complaints of oppression by police. Now he hopes the initiative helps to repair some of those tainted relationships.
Tatum said the problems aren't exclusive to the African-American community. "It's not just the blacks," he suggested. "It's poor Hispanics and it's poor whites. It's those who can't defend themselves."
Fort Worth Police Chief Rhonda Robertson issued the following statement in response to the Department of Justice's plan:
"The Fort Worth Police Department is honored to be selected as one of the six pilot sites for this groundbreaking study," said Chief of Police Rhonda Robertson. "Upon learning about the project, we immediately realized the opportunity it would present to strengthen our existing community partnerships and to develop new relationships built upon trust within the community. Fort Worth is already an excellent place to live, work, and visit; and we believe our participation in the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice will make it even better."
Talking to residents in one area of Fort Worth it was clear the police/community relationship was fractured.
One person said, "Right here in the neighborhood I don't trust the police, and to get to trust them I don't know what it's going to take."
Another person said, somewhat optimistically, "If they just knew how to talk to us they would solve a lot more problems."
Those kinds of interactions and discussions are just the dialogue the Justice Department's initiative is hoping to spark.
Officials with Fort Worth police would not talk about the initiative with CBS 11 News on camera and instead a statement that said, in part, "We realize the opportunity it will present to strengthen our community partnerships and to develop new relationships built upon trust within the community."
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