Local leaders react to Ferguson town hall discussion

Since the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, racial equality in America has become a common question among local leaders.

Columbia, S.C. (WACH) - Since the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, racial equality in America has become a common question among local leaders.

WACH Fox hosted a panel for the "Your Voice Your Future" town hall discussion where panelist argue the events leading up to and after the death of Brown, reiterating debates that racial divides still exist in the United States.

"The outrage that you see in Ferguson I believe is a cry from people saying this is America," said Columbia Mayor, Steve Benjamin. "There are certain things that ought not happen here and we're not happy about it because it's not just happening in Ferguson, itâ??s happening all over the country."

With the town hall focusing on moving America forward, community policing and more training within law enforcement were two of many solutions suggested.

"I think that we, we collectively as a country, need to rethink this whole position of militarization of our law enforcement departments around the country," said Cynthia Hardy, referring to what some called excessive force when police officers attempted to calm protestors in Ferguson.

However, before those recommendations can come into play, some argue that the change for America will need start with the younger generation in order to rebuild trust between the community and law enforcement.

"It starts with the youth. It starts with the programs. Perception is everything," said Sgt. Kevin Lawrence with the Richland County Sheriff's Department.

"Community policing is more than a concept," added JT McLawhorn, president of the Columbia Urban League. "It is a process where people connect with folks, so if you don't have any connectivity, then you're not going to have any success in this society."

Also reacting to Ferguson in Tuesday night's town hall discussion was Pastor Robert Cale with New Direction church.

He says not only will police officers need to protect and serve, but communities also need to learn to protect those who live in it.

"The police canâ??t fix everything," said Cale. "It takes us the everyday people to live in that conduct of Christ."

Echoing Cale was Courtney Sanders who joined in to watch the town hall discussion.

"We need the accountability from everybody, and that's the biggest thing is expecting things from people and having them deliver," said Sanders.

Brown, who is black, was unarmed when he was shot Aug. 9 by Officer Darren Wilson, who is white. A grand jury is considering evidence in the case and a federal investigation is also underway.