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Forum to Explore Hot-Button Issues of Race, Police and Social Justice

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By Mark Schlueb

Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice: For many, the names of African Americans who died during confrontations with police are emblematic of the dangerous divide between officers and the minority communities they serve.

For others, the names Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu represent a more legitimate danger. The Brooklyn policemen were murdered in December in a case that some people see as proof that law enforcement officers have been unfairly demonized by those they protect.

Those two viewpoints - and others that fall somewhere in the middle - will meet on Monday at a University of Central Florida forum about race, law enforcement and social justice.  View the program announcement

"We want to create an environment where people can have strong disagreement about these incidents and the state of law enforcement in this country, and learn to have respectful conversation and how to use their passion to take action to make our community stronger and better," said Karen Morrison, UCF's chief diversity officer.

The forum - entitled "Do All Lives Matter?" - includes panelists Kareem Jordan from the School of Criminology at UMass Lowell; criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor Robert B. Fisher; UCF Police Chief Richard Beary; and Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill, who represents a predominantly African American district. Radio host Monica May is moderating the forum.

It comes in the wake of marches and recent "die in" demonstrations across the country in protest of the deaths of Brown and Garner.

The two-hour discussion starts at 6 p.m. Monday in the Cape Florida room at the Student Union. It is free and open to students and the general public, who are encouraged to show up with tough questions.

"There are so many things to talk about, and students may be conflicted with how they feel and how others feel," said Cynthia Schmidt, director of the Center for Law and Policy in UCF's Department of Legal Studies. "I hope people raise questions that are from different points of view."

The forum is a collaboration of five UCF departments: the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Department of Legal Studies, the Center for Law and Policy, Social Justice & Advocacy, and Equal Opportunity & Affirmative Action.

Organizers hope the discussion results in ideas to promote positive relationships between law enforcement officers and the community.

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