At the fourth annual Orlando Speaks event, held Wednesday evening at the Engelwood Community Center, the city and the Orlando Police Department honed in on a specific goal: strengthening the bond between the police and the community.
The format of the event was engendered to take people out of their comfort zones — people were asked to sit with other residents of different genders, races, or age groups from themselves. One OPD member also sat at each table. For an hour and a half, they participated in various discussions on broad topics of race, stereotypes, and their perceptions of one another. They spoke and listened in turn.
Opening the ceremony, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer spoke about the challenges faced as a whole community in mending police and residents’ relations. He said it was a “top priority” for the safety of everyone.
Citing the recent high-profile killings of black men by police officers and juxtaposing them against the 45 police officers he said had also been killed this year so far, Dyer said there is a need for understanding on both sides.
“We need to respect police, but also hold them accountable, hold them to higher standards,” he said. “We need to have proactive measures to make sure it stays that way. We need to have a relationship with the community so that when something happens, we don’t just have people saying ‘nobody saw anything.’ They should know the OPD and then they’ll let us know.”
The event was just more of Dyer’s vision for Orlando, he told the crowd — of diversity and inclusion, which will ultimately keep the city safer.