COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Top law enforcement officials Marshal Greg Countryman, Major Freddie Blackmon of Columbus Police Department and Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr addressed dozens of Columbus residents Tuesday at the Columbus Public Library.
The forum was organized by the Columbus Steering Committee of the Southern Anti-Racism Network
"This is a very important forum to bridge community unity between law enforcement and the citizens of Columbus," explained Regional Director Theresa El-Armin.
During the forum, officials discussed what they do on a daily basis to protect and serve. They also explained how they build a relationship with the community through the programs they offer.
"We have officers teach D.A.R.E. training within the school system. We have a great program in gang resistance training and education," said Blackmon.
A majority of the questions from the audience revolved around recent crime, specifically if it is gang-related.
"We have seen an increase inside the county jails of individuals that say they have some affiliation with a gang or group," Darr explained.
Countryman says the police department isn't to blame in the uptick in crime, but admitting there is problem is the first step toward a solution.
"We have to be able to let citizens know that under out watch these things can't happen," Countryman said.
Organizers believe continuing to hold forums like these will only enhance the trust between law enforcement and residents.
"We really want to make sure law enforcement know that we understand it's a dangerous job. We know they look out for us and we want to look out for them," El-Armin explained.
During Tuesday's event the group also paid tribute to the 25 Columbus Police Officers that have been killed in the line of duty since CPD began keeping records in 1876.