"My message is that racism does exist," says Chief of Police Joseph Croughwell.
It's not the kind of talk you usually hear around a place like this.
"We must responsibly acknowledge what failures have occurred in our community," says community leader Larry Charles.
The reason for all this straight talk is a tragedy that happened here a month ago. An unarmed 14-year-old black boy was shot by a white police officer.
"Y'all not going to get away with this, killing my brother," said Aquan Salmon's brother, Mark Barrow, after the shooting. "Y'all not going to get away with this."
The outcry and the anger are all too familiar. But here, in one of America's poorest of cities, in one of its richest states, this latest shooting has inspired a new level of candor.
|Family photo of Aquan Salmon. (CBS)|
"I think that was almost like a conversion, just by looking at some of my officers describing how they feel, because they feel they are victims of racism, and I think it woke me up," says Croughwell.
The head of the overwhelmingly white police force in this overwhelmingly black and Latino city has been shaken by reports following the shooting that senior black officers are routinely undermined by younger white officers.
But young Aquan Salmon had a criminal record and was a robbery suspect that night he was shot, which has raised tough questions in the community.
"We should take the shooting as a wake-up call to our own community to say, 'Okay, we really need to wake up and get involved and provide positive opportunities for these youths to grow and learn, correct values and principals,'" Charles says.
In this divided city, there is hope that admitting the real source of problems is the first step toward solving them.