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CBS4 Race Matters Series Prompts Town Hall Meeting

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) - An unprecedented gathering of community leaders took place Friday night in South Miami-Dade to discuss ways to improve relations between police and the African-American community.

The town hall meeting was called in response to the CBS4 News investigation Race Matters, Policing by the Numbers which raised serious concerns about how arrests were being made.

The forum ran from 5:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m.  at Cutler Bay Town Hall, 10720 Caribbean Boulevard.

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The forum was hosted by state representative Kionne McGhee who said the community needs to come together before it faces the types of problems we've seen in places like Baltimore, Ferguson, and New York.

"We're looking for a solution. What we found in your report was pretty much interesting to all of us here," McGhee said.

In its series Race Matters, CBS4 News spent months investigating the work of a group of plain clothes Miami-Dade Police officers known as a crime suppression team.  The officers would ride around in unmarked cars in the South District, arresting hundreds of people, most of them young and black, for relatively minor offenses such as possession of a marijuana cigarette.

"When you are averaging two convictions per 250 arrests, that's alarming and it's our job as public officials to look into it to make sure everything is moving according to the scales of justice," said McGhee.

The numbers have raised concerns about racial bias in the way police treat people in black neighborhoods.

Pastor Robert Brooks, senior pastor for the St. Peters Missionary Baptists Church in West Perrine, told CBS4's Jim Defede he believes he has been stopped for no other reason than the fact that he is a black man.

"Personally, personally as I'm thinking about it, I can name at least four cases that stand out," he said.

"Four times where you've been stopped by the police?" asked Defede.

"Stopped and mistreated, or by my standards mistreated," responded Brooks. "I wasn't roughed up, not physically, but disrespected, spoken to as if I was already a suspect."

Pastor Brooks was at the forum as well as Miami-Dade Police Director J.D. Patterson, representatives from the state attorney's office and public defender Carlos Martinez.  One of the county court judges was there as well as other elected officials from the legislature and the county commission.

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