By Marland Mosley, Jr.
It doesn’t come as a shock that there’s a standstill between law enforcement and people in different communities, including law-abiding citizens. In today’s world, when most people see someone in a police uniform, or any uniform for that matter, they automatically assume that the police are there to inflict harm, tear families apart, or even wreak havoc on the communities they’re policing. This all stems from the lack of trust, respect, community, and a lack of making people feel safe.
Even though we, as a people, will probably experience bad policemen and policewomen, there is still a beacon of hope that shines all throughout the Fort Worth community. In an interview, we dove in about the Shop Talk program and how it affects the individuals interviewed, people in the community, and how to bridge the gap between the police and the community. The interview included Eddie Pannell (Owner of the Faded Blue Barbershop Lounge), one Community USA owner, Tony Brinker, Chief of Police Neil Noakes, Deputy Chief of Community Roy Hudson, Deputy Chief Buck Wheeler, Commander Andre Smith, Assistant Chief Joe Sparrow, and retired Officer Jon Pluckett.
Pannell started off to say, with Shop Talk, there’s “no hold bars.” Everything from politics, a problem a certain child may have, or if someone is foregoing a life-changing experience, Shop Talk provides a sense of family, camaraderie, and oneness towards each other. In fact, he says “I don’t want them to be perfect…they can give their testament to help someone else.”
Pannell says he was once one of those kids who needed a role model in his life, so he felt that it was only right for him to have “barbershop talk” about any and everything and incorporate people in the community as well. He went on to say that “Barbershops are a hospital.” The Faded Blue Lounge is more than a barbershop. It is a haven for someone who doesn’t have anyone to talk to. It’s a place where people come to get talked off the ledge. And it’s a place where everyone from all walks of life are welcome, including policemen.
Chief of Police Neil Noakes, an endorser of Shop Talk, is one of those officers who brings the police force and the barbershop together. As I’ve stated before, anytime someone sees the police, people in the community automatically assume the worst is about to happen or that they just want to show their authority. That isn’t the case with the Fort Worth Police Department. He says that “you got to come to them, relax and be yourself.”
You can’t expect change if you’re just sitting in an office all day. You have to go where they gather and feel safe and let them know that you’re not a threat. And there’s no better place to have two worlds collide than a barbershop. He goes on to mention that “There’s no rank in Shop Talk; everybody is the same.”
In order for change to happen, a simple conversation needs to be had, and an understanding needs to be set in order for both parties to bring about change in the community. He also stated a famous quote that says, “The greatest predictor of any relationship is proximity.”
Having the police enter your place of business can be innerving, or even scary, but Chief of Police Neil Noakes makes it known that he brings no harm, that he intends to help the city of Fort Worth, and that he lets people know that he’s in the community to serve the people, not just police them.
He also doesn’t just talk about it but actually goes from door to door, has that one-on-one with different homeowners, and relieves them of the fears that they may have.
When asked about his line of work, he says “I’m not special, just blessed and try to be a blessing to those around me.” In some ways, he sets the premise of what Shop Talk is about. Nothing is off limits when talking with him, and he is more than a police officer. He is for the community and just as human as everyone else.
Deputy Chief of Community Safety Partnership Roy Hudson is definitely one for the community, being that he’s born and raised in Fort Worth. He impacts Shop Talk by giving back, building trust, and being part of the community by eliminating the fear that some people may have. He has always been involved in the Fort Worth Community, so being a part of Shop Talk was easy for him. He also teaches kids what to do when stopped by a police officer and is involved in mentor programs, cadet programs, and an athletic team.
Hudson will not stop, by any means, bringing about change in the community. He shows up for the people, willing to help the people, and he does not label everyone he comes across as criminals or a threat. It’s been shown too often that policemen, or people in command, view people in their community as targets, or as another statistic; Hudson makes sure that everyone in the community is heard, respected, and seen.
Another person who makes sure that people are heard and seen is Tony Brinker, founder of One Community USA. She started in 2015 as a nonprofit organization in New York City after experiencing people marching down the street begging for change. She says the purpose of One Community USA is to talk about issues like police brutality, better schools and churches, or just about life in general. She says the best way someone can reduce violence is by simply talking to one another. A young man and a police officer could stare each other in they face, and they can have a mutual disliking for each other. A simple conversation can dissolve their discomfort, and they can actually grow to respect each other.
Shop Talk is something that brings people from all walks of life together, no matter the race, religion, or background. Everyone is considered equal when they participate in Shop Talk. A barbershop, for some, is simply a place people go to cut hair; for others, it’s a safe space people go to receive counseling, groom boys into men, and let people know their voices are heard.
It’s a natural feeling to be afraid of law enforcement in this day in age, but to have organizations like One Community USA, and the FWPD active in their communities, it’ll make for an easier tomorrow.
We can’t bridge the gap between law enforcement and citizens within a day, but with organizations like One Community USA, and Shop Talk, there is hope that people from all over can coincide together and not be afraid of one another.