The string of tragic shootings over the past year have sparked riots across the country and changed the way many communities discuss race. Government and law enforcement officials across the U.S. are all searching for ways to better train and educate police officers and to improve relationships with their communities.
For Shaun Corbett, owner of a barbershop on the north side of Charlotte, North Carolina, the issue has struck close to home. The process of selecting a jury to try former police officer Randall Kerrick began on Monday. Kerrick is under trial for voluntary manslaughter in response to the shooting death of Jonathan Ferrel, and the Charlotte community is on edge.
Corbett, who is himself black, was concerned that the issue could lead to violence from the local black community towards law enforcement officials. In his community, and in many across the country, the barbershop is a central part of everyday life. It is where many people in the Charlotte black community come to get counsel and advice.
Knowing this, Corbett approached his local barber’s association. Out of their conversations the Cops and Barbers program was born. The Cops and Barbers program is sponsored by the N.C. Local Barbers Association, and has so far hosted several town hall forums as well as community events geared towards putting people in touch with their local police.
The hope is that, regardless of the outcome of the trial, open and honest dialogue with police will help to relieve any potential tension and head off any unrest. The Cops and Barbers program partners with police, churches, and other community organizations to maintain good relationships with law enforcement officials and has so far had outstanding success. Their first event, held on Super Bowl Sunday, was attended by over 200 people.
The continued support and influence of the barber community in Charlotte has made a huge impact on local race relations. Barber’s across the country would do well to examine their own sphere of influence in their community in the days to come.