An online public forum is set for next month with the Buffalo Valley Regional Police Department allowing citizens and officials to discuss policies including use of force along with officer training and statistics.

The forum was requested in July by 165 signatories of a petition submitted to the police commission that oversees the department. It’s sought in response to instances and allegations of racial bias and discrimination in policing nationally.

“We also hope to learn how members of the public concerned about police action can formally address such matters,” said Janice Butler, who helped organize the forum. “By providing an opportunity for respectful dialogue between law enforcement and interested individuals at a public forum, our hope is to increase community awareness and understanding.”

The forum will be held via Zoom from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 7. Susan Jordan, CEO of Susquehanna Valley Mediation, will facilitate discussion. Pre-registration is required: https://forms.gle/3R439gERP52zRKAq6.

There will be a 10-minute introductory period and a review of ground rules for the event. That’s followed by a 30-minute presentation by Police Chief Paul Yost, a 30-minute question-and-answer period and 20 minutes of small group discussions in breakout rooms.

Yost said he will give an overview of the department including general descriptions of police work locally. Police officer use of force, hate crimes, data collection and training requirements about de-escalation tactics and implicit bias against minorities are among topics he’s considering addressing as he puts together a presentation ahead of the forum.

“Any chance to interact with the public is a good thing. I am hopeful to present facts related to the Department. I also hope to address any concerns presented by participants,” Yost said.

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