Wichita police chief lands White House invite after cookout

AP News
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Posted: Jul 22, 2016 4:59 PM

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas police chief has received an invitation to the White House after hosting a cookout to promote dialogue between law enforcement and leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/2alm3zw ) reports that Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay was invited to the White House on Friday to discuss community policing. City spokesman Ken Evans says Ramsay had to decline because he's serving as the justice of the peace at a wedding over the weekend, but that he'll try to reschedule.

The invitation came after Ramsay met with local activist leaders about replacing another planned protest with a cookout that aimed to open a dialogue. Nearly 2,000 people attended Sunday's event.

Ramsay said that he believes some people may question the motive behind the cookout and wondering whether it was a way to placate protesters. He said the point of the gathering was to have face-to-face conversations with concerned citizens.

"People don't really have a lot of police contact. When they do, it's when something bad's going on: a ticket or an arrest."

Some local community organizers have mixed feelings about the national attention the cookout has received.

A.J. Bohannon was a lead organizer of the Black Lives Matter march on July 12.

"The attention is nice, but we have to stay focused on the issues that we are addressing," Bohannon said. "We can't rejoice in the victory of one battle when we are still in a war."

Community organizer Djuan Wash said the cookout "was to provide an opportunity for the chief to address the reforms he intends to make."

Ramsay urged police departments around the nation in a recorded Facebook Live post to hold events similar to the one held in his city.

"It shows you the power of face-to-face discussion and getting to know each other when there's not a crisis," Ramsay said.

According to Ramsay, other police chiefs have voiced concerns about hosting a cookout because of a current perception of "us against them."

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com