FERGUSON, Missouri — As residents of the St. Louis area wait in anticipation for the grand jury announcement determining whether or not officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown, will be indicted, police officers and community members engaged in an unexpected dialogue Saturday hoping to bring about what both sides say is needed change.
"Usually the police aren’t willing to engage and have open and honest conversation, which creates resentment and hostility." St. Louis resident and founder of activist group Peacekeepers, Paul Muhammad, told NBC News.
Muhammad was meeting his friend David Whitt, who is the community leader for We Cop Watch, an organization that has been handing out body cameras to the residents of Ferguson so that they can record their interactions with police, at noon Saturday when the two men saw the police had stopped a car.
"We came over and put our cameras on and asked what was going on." Whitt said. According to Whitt, the cop took an "aggressive stance with his hands on his gun" before calling for backup.
The backup that arrived on the scene, who was identified by his badge as Sergeant H. Dilworth, and who is African American, used the opportunity to hear what the community members had to say.
"We asked about a safe distance for recording or engagement that the people are allowed, to stand and actually observe or record what is going." Muhammad said. "The body language they take often times is automatically defensive and can escalate the situation."
The sergeant told Muhammad that he would take his ideas to his colleagues and that he was willing to have a conversation. Maurice Brown, who also spoke with the sergeant, said that he sees conversations like this as the first step.
"It makes me feel like, OK we have one person now who is willing to listen to us and that’s a step, but we’ve got to have that and spread it throughout the rest of the police department and law enforcement agencies, throughout the world — then we will be getting somewhere."
The white police officer who was the first one on the scene, identified by his badge as M. White, agreed. "We need this. We are going to disagree on a lot of points, so we need to talk it out." he said.
A grand jury is expected to meet again Monday as it decides whether Wilson will be charged.