Oklahoma City police chief, pastor talk policing, racism in virtual town hall

As protests against police brutality and racial injustice began sweeping the nation after George Floyd’s death in May, the Rev. John A. Reed asked Oklahoma City Police Chief Wade Gourley a question.

“Pastor Reed, when we first got together when all of this was going on, he asked me if I could look him in the eye and say we had no racist police officers. I told him that I don’t think I could say that because I don’t know what’s in everybody’s heart,” Gourley said. “When he asked me that question, it was one of the hardest questions I’ve ever been asked and I felt like I had to be honest.”

The police chief’s remarks were among the highlights of a virtual town hall held Tuesday at Fairview Missionary Baptist Church, where Reed is the longtime senior pastor.

The event, entitled “Pastors, Police & People,” was coordinated by the OK Justice Circle, a coalition of metro area faith leaders and social justice advocates. An audience of about 20 people sat in the sanctuary of Fairview, 1700 NE 7, as Gourley and Reed spoke. Numerous others tuned in to the roughly 90-minute long discussion via Facebook Live, with Oklahoma City Police Lt. Wayland Cubit and the Rev. Makenzie Magnus, associate pastor of Council Road Baptist Church, serving as event moderators.

The Rev. Jon Middendorf, an OK Justice Circle member who helped coordinate the town hall, said it was designed to give Gourley an opportunity to speak about police practices and strategies and to hear both the police chief and Reed talk about relevant issues.

The men discussed a wide range of topics, based on questions from a few audience members at the church and numerous queries from people watching via live stream.

Gourley, who is white, said he gets frustrated when a police officer uses excessive force and acts outside the bounds of the law because it erodes community trust. Reed, who is Black, talked about living through the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. He said the country seems to be going backward instead of forward in terms of race relations and the struggle for equality for all people.

“I’m not ready to give up at this age but it’s been a long, long struggle,” Reed said.

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