An officer talks to community members at a community cookout in Wichita, Kan., on July 19, 2016, that replaced a protest.
Wichita, Kan., Police Department via Facebook

A Wichita, Kan., Black Lives Matter group was planning a protest march on Sunday as the nation continued to grapple with the recent string of fatal shootings of black men by police and of police by gunmen. However, the Wichita Eagle reports, after speaking with Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay, the group decided that instead of a protest, they would hold a cookout Tuesday at a local park along with the police.

The change was meant to open up lines of communication and build trust between police and the community, the news site reports, and the barbecue drew people from all racial backgrounds and of all ages.

Advertisement

Seated at one table were three men—black, Hispanic and white—sitting next to Lt. Travis Rakestraw to talk about their ideas. Jarvis Scott, the black man, said that it was the first time since 1992 that he had sat down with an officer. The other two said that it was their first time ever meeting with an officer like this.

“It takes two parties to make a healthy relationship,” Ramsay said, according to USA Today.

According to USA Today, officers served hamburgers and hot dogs and played basketball with members of the community. There was also dancing and bounce houses and bubbles.

Advertisement

However, it wasn't all fun and games. There was also a Q&A where Chief Ramsay took questions from the community. According to the Eagle, community members took the opportunity to speak out. Among the first questions: Were the police buying off the community with food, and how would the event help with racial profiling?

Another woman addressed her own experiences with police and said that she had been mistreated. Ramsay assured the crowd that every officer would have a body camera and that residents would be able to look at footage with him when complaints about officers were made.

“If you feel mistreated, I want to know about it,” Ramsay said. “If they feel they are being mistreated, at the scene is not the time to argue about it; wait until it’s over.

“Loud and clear, I have zero tolerance for racial profiling or racial bias,” he added.

USA Today notes that Ramsay encouraged other police departments and communities to try to build the same relationship.

“I do want to challenge other police departments and communities to do the same things with [a] community cookout,” he said.

Read more at the Wichita Eagle and USA Today