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Listening Circles Need Funding to Keep Going

Community members and cops in Milwaukee are talking one on one to build trust and ease tension. However, these conversations could come to an end soon.

Listening circles where dozens of citizens and police talk to each other in small groups. They've been happening since Spring 2016 but Monday November 28th was the last one for this year. Since funding has run out another year of these talks is uncertain. 

People say you can learn a lot by just listening. By sitting in a circle next to different officers and talking for hours, 17 year old Laresha Love has learned plenty. 

"In the beginning it’s awkward until you hear the police side of the story. One of the officers at the first listening session said they never used their gun before. He had been on the force for 14 years, and he had ever used his gun before that was amazing," says Laresha Love.

This meeting is the last of six in the Amani neighborhood, a high crime area with some misguided tension.

"I think the biggest theme you hear from the community and police at the same time is what it means to be treated with respect," says Milwaukee Chief Ed Flynn.

"This is not intended to be a one shot solution to this very significant problem between the community and police. It’s part of the puzzle," Says Pastor Mary Martha Kannass.

The Ziedler Group put the listening circles together along with ones in Harambee and Metcalfe Park. If they get funding to keep this going next year the goal is to expand, maybe even to Sherman Park. 

"I feel that me and my community and the officers are making a difference. People don’t always see the change that we are making but as long as the community sees it we will be fine." Says Laresha Love. 

The Ziedler Group is applying for another grant to fund next year but is hoping to get private donations. Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn says the department will participate if it keeps going. And the Sherman Park Neighborhood Association says they like the idea of being part of it too. 

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