Alumnus forms Uniting Evansville
As he walked through various community events in Evansville, Indiana, officer Joshua Brewer, '07, wanted to interact with people who were in attendance, but no one would make eye contact with him, and his greetings were unanswered.
“As a police officer, I wanted to have conversations with people,” Brewer said. “Talking to and learning from community members is the most important thing we do, but no one wanted to talk to us.”
Brewer, who earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Grand Valley, works as a police officer for the Evansville Police Department. He said the 2016 shootings against police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge made him realize the need for a community conversation about police-community relations in Evansville.
“People needed to realize that you can support groups like Black Lives Matters and be pro-police,” Brewer said.
The Evansville Police Department partnered with Young and Established, a local nonprofit organization in Evansville, to create an initiative called Uniting Evansville.
The initiative aims to generate conversations among community members, specifically focusing on tensions that exist within the city.
Brewer and Courtney Johnson, founder and executive director of Young and Established, said they recognized the need for an improved police-community relationship. For their first event, they hosted a community panel discussion featuring members of the police department.
Brewer said it was a bit awkward at first, but after the conversation began, everyone realized the benefits of talking to one another. He said attendees expressed thankfulness and excitement for the conversations to continue.
“We brought a group of people together who normally wouldn’t hang out together or converse together to talk about race and police-community relations,” Brewer said. “That conversation doesn’t happen as often as it should.”
Brewer said additional events were held, like community cookouts and roundtable discussions. These events have averaged around 150 community members. Brewer recently applied for nonprofit status for Uniting Evansville.
“The relationships we are building are key to solving a lot of the problems going on in the community and the world,” he said.
To learn more about Uniting Evansville, visit www.unitingevansville.org or email email@example.com.
-By Lucas Escalada