Atlanta barbershops offer neutral ground for real talk on policing between cops, residents

U.S.

(NewsNation Now) — An Atlanta non-profit is using barbershops as neutral territory for community members and police officers to find common ground.

In an effort to cultivate empathy between civilians and police, retired investigator Tyrone Dennis founded the nonprofit Clippers and Cops. The program aims to spark conversation between the two groups on what Dennis calls “sacred ground”: the barbershop.

“The conversations that we have, we talk about everything under the sun. Usually the conversation starts off slow and then as people get comfortable, it goes wherever,” Dennis said. “We have topics of discussion: do’s and don’ts on traffic stops, how to interact with law enforcement, how law enforcement should interact with the people they serve.”

Clippers and Cops started in March 2018, when a group of citizens and cops came together at Stoney’s Barbershop and had candid conversations. The forums now take place at barbershops in different cities.

In May 2018, Dennis and his team hosted their forum at ZuCot Art Gallery located at 100 Centennial Olympic Park. The venue’s space allowed Clippers and Cops to introduce civilians to a shooting simulator that tests split-second decision making.

“We’re trying to provide that space for people to hold these conversations and to try to be the change that we want to see when people talk about police reform,” Dennis said. “We feel like we’re that. If the police are supposed to be for the people, why aren’t we interacting with the people in which we serve?”

Dennis grew up in the city and went on to become a gang detective. When police shootings happened, his social media became “ground zero,” he said.

“Everybody was coming to me because I’m a police officer, and that is what inspired me to try to cultivate those conversations into something positive,” Dennis said.

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