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Community conversations continue in Topeka in wake of Chauvin verdict



TOPEKA, Kan. – Marty Hillard, a board member of Black Lives Matter Topeka, it has been hard to describe his reaction to Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict.

“All I can say is that it’s all very surreal but I recognize that it’s it’s a small piece on the long rotor to justice and accountability for these murders,” he said Wednesday.

“I’m a child of Mississippi, that’s where both sides of my family are from, so when we talk about civil rights when we talk about racism in this country when we talk about police violence this is something you know that but I’ve been carrying with me for a long time.”

Hillard said the end of the trial can serve as a turning point for improving race relations in Topeka.

“I think that definitely starts with local governance I actually listening to the voices of the people actually listening to the voices of the other community making sure that our voices are included when high-level decisions are made,” he said.

“We don’t have to be another community for us to deal with problems between the police in the community.”

One outlet to work through those issues is the city council’s Police and Community committee chaired by District 3 Councilwoman Sylvia Ortiz.

“Our committee is dedicated to making sure that we have policy procedures in place so that we don’t have any ongoing or any issues so we want make sure that we can educate the public as well as each other,” she said.

District 5 Councilman Mike Padilla also serves on the committee.

He served more than 30 years with the Topeka Police Department and has an idea of where to start.

“Engagement if what we do we do in vacuum then it’s not going to be affective or long-lasting so I think the opportunities like right now these conversations will be taking place for a long time,” he said.

“Opportunities have changed over the years dependent upon the changes in law enforcement, the changes in law and also go to the change in seeing what law enforcement responsibility is to engage the community rather than be just, I guess, an observer of the community that’s not helpful we need to be engaged.”

Padilla is offering a challenge to those who want to keep the conversation going.

“Invite the people that you’re uncomfortable with to those conversations, invite law enforcement, they cannot make the changes without assistance from the community,” he said.

Hillard said Black Lives Matter Topeka wants the city to be a safer place for everyone.

“The next step is to continue to have conversations figure out what we can do collaboratively and to, you know to raise peoples voices but also offer people opportunities have to come up with initiatives that empower people and really great about community leadership from the ground up,” he said.

“What comes next is that we continue to honor the lives that have been lost to police violence in this community and ensure that this doesn’t happen again in the future and it’ll just take more conversation and constant watchfulness.”