Hundreds attend first of two Montgomery County town halls of race and policing

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SILVER SPRING, MD – Hundreds attended the first of two Montgomery County town halls on Tuesday night on the issue of policing and race relations.

The crowd spilled into the hallway of the Silver Spring Civic Center to hear from government and police officials, faith leaders, and to have their own say on the topic.

“And so the only way we are going to solve this problem is to admit that we have a problem,” said Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett.

The town halls were put together in response to the killings by police of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, MN and the killings of five police officers in Dallas, TX (the events were scheduled last Friday, before three officers were killed in Baton Rouge, LA) as people expressed concern that similar events could happen in the county.

“I think that’s what people are waking up to. We’ve been living in a bubble,” said Montgomery County Interfaith Community Liaison Mansfield Kaseman.

Those in the audience that spoke told of their own experiences, or ones they witnessed, of interactions with police and ways those interactions could be improved.

Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger stressed to the audience he focuses on hiring the right people for the police force and giving them proper training until the day they retire, but added there are issues facing both sides.

“My cops are in a tough position, we got a job to do to keep this community safe. You call, We gotta respond. Hopefully we respond fairly and lawfully. I can tell you, cops can do things and try the best they can, both people contribute to that interaction,” said Manger.

The second town hall is Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Upcounty Regional Services Center in Germantown.