The city of Flint recently created an original 9, now 12-member advisory task force to bridge gaps between the community and law enforcement. Flintside will be talking with each member of the task force in the coming weeks about their reasons for joining and what they hope to accomplish. Other member profiles: Debra Furr-Holden | Jeffrey Hawkins | Ralph Arellano
FLINT, Michigan -- Mario Booker doesn’t believe the city of Flint’s Community Advisory Task Force can work miracles, but he does see it as a way that the community and Flint Police Department can build more trust and understanding.
“I really want to see a melding and collaborative cooperations between the community and the police,” said Booker, 40. “Two communities that are enriched with trust and support of each other. And right now that doesn't exist. We are all in this together.”
Booker is a Flint native, minister, volunteer, and activist. As a member of the task force and the chair for the membership subcommittee, Booker is working towards what he calls, “a collaboration between the community and police.”
“I really would love to see bi-weekly meetings between the police and the community and have productive conversations,” Booker said. “Several months ago, on the northside of Flint, there were police officers outside playing basketball with a group of kids. I want more of that.”
Currently, despite often close proximity and a clear need for police often expressed by residents, there isn’t a lot of trust.
“It is almost ingrained within the DNA of the community that the police are the enemy and that you don’t trust the police,” he said. “The duality of it is the community is expected to ignore the ‘no snitching’ policy, but the police have the ‘Blue Wall’ where they don't snitch on their brothers and sisters in blue. You [the police] want the community to do something you yourself don't do.”
The task force has been meeting regularly since the summer, and plans this month to roll out a website, social media, and virtual tools to start bridging the gap between the police and the community in Flint. Booker noted that the task force wants participation and input from the community.
“Come to the meetings, you have a seat at the table,” Booker said. “Your chair is waiting for you. Come and be heard, we want to hear from you and we want your input. We need you, we need everyone to make a change.”
Booker is currently working on his PhD in information technology with a concentration in network and data forensics with his goal to become an educator.
“I came from a background where I was told I wasn’t going to be anything,” he said. “That I was less than nothing. I grew up thinking that and then one day I realized, ‘Hey, no.’ God put it upon me and put greatness within me and I want to walk in that.”
He has a vision for his community and his children. Booker wants to set a precedent for a hopeful future in Flint.
“It is the deafening silence that is killing us,” he said. “We need to open up and we need to speak out. It’s not my future, it’s my children and their children's future that I am trying to fight for. We have to be able to make these changes and have these tough conversations now so that in the future they don't have to fight as hard as we are now.”
Booker also noted that the problems associated with policing are systemic and not necessarily about current individual officers or leadership. The issues have been ongoing throughout history.
“These conversations have been happening since the Sixties,” Booker said. “We don't need a personnel change, we need a systemic change. It’s almost like a surgery, you have a scar with dead tissue on it so you have to start cutting away at that and get down to the exposed nerve. That's what we [the task force] are trying to do. Find the problem, then fix it. Suture it up and heal. Everyone wants the healing but they don't want the surgery.”