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Special CMPD Officers Hope To Have Constructive Conversations

David Boraks
Officer Jesus Rendon talks with protesters during Tuesday's NAACP / Kidz Fed Up march uptown.

When Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Jasmine Nivens speaks to a protester, she says she knows they may not want to hear what she has to say. Often, they just want to be heard.

Credit Sarah Delia / WFAE
Lt. Steve Fischbach and officer Jasmine Nivens discuss their work on CMPD's Constructive Conversation team.

"Some people just want to vent and they don’t want to hear from us," Nivens said. "But they just want someone to actively listen to their thoughts, opinions, their frustation, their anger, their pain."

Nivens is part of CMPD’s Constructive Conversation team, a group of officers who take on this secondary role of engaging with the public during demonstrations. The idea came from the protests that erupted in the city after the police shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott in 2016.

Lt. Steve Fischbach a big part of this job is to be close enough to have one-on-one conversations with people, which has been a challenge during the coronavirus pandemic.

They decided for the sake of clear communication not to wear masks.

"If we’re wearing the mask, you can’t understand what we’re saying and you can’t hear what we’re saying so we made the decision not wear a mask," Fischbach said. "We prepped our officers on the team. People are going to be close to us and probably want to touch us -- at times hug us -- and everyone on the team understood that. We made the collective decision that it was worth all the risks given the pandemic to proceed with this because, again, showing we believe in this."

He added when things subside it would be a good idea for members of the team to be tested.

Officer Nivens was out during the protests in Charlotte in 2016. She says as a black female police officer, she understands the anger people felt back then and the pain they feel now.

"I know that I hurt, but to hear the hurt from others, it kind of really opens my eyes, it’s not just me. It’s everyone," she said.

Nivens added while she hasn’t hugged her parents since March, she has hugged strangers out on the line. If that’s what it takes to make a difference and to let people know police care, she said, she’ll take a chance.

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