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Who will convene conversation on police and race on Long Island?

Willie Jenkins, in red, marches with others in

Willie Jenkins, in red, marches with others in a Black Lives Matter demonstration in East Hampton, Sunday, July 17, 2016. Credit: Marisol Diaz

On Sunday, Black Lives Matter movement sympathizers marched in East Hampton Village and Bridgehampton while police supporters gathered in Selden. The previous weekend, contrasting marches took place in East Meadow, Massapequa and Riverhead.

Long Island is no exception to the fraught debate over policing and race. Nassau County police held a tribute on Monday to slain officers. People everywhere are disturbed by the recent killings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, and by the recent shooting deaths by police of black men in Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights, Minnesota. It’s a horrible escalation of the conflict that began two years ago next month in suburban Ferguson, Missouri.

But where does Long Island go from here? Who in the region will step forward to convene the conversation this community must have about policing, trust in the criminal justice system, and the racial segregation of our schools and housing? And how will we determine the truth about policing and race on Long Island? Are blacks and Hispanics stopped more often than others? Arrested more often than others? Mistreated more often than others? Is anyone compiling and analyzing the data that would provide more insight into the observation that our region has not had any recent incidents of the type that have riven the country?

It’s time to be honest. Closed minds and loud voices supporting police or opposing police are not helpful. We need cool heads, smart thinking and a genuine search for solutions. That begins with understanding and respecting each other’s point of view. It’s time for both sides to come together and craft a common story.

Who is going to make that happen? — The editorial board