Gaston County, N.C. - With racial tensions on the rise all across the country, Gaston County leaders are trying to get ahead of the issue. On Thursday, police and leaders of the minority community came together to find some common ground.
As two candles came together to form one flame, law-enforcement and clergy members in Gaston County pledged their unity against violence and divisiveness.
"I was born and raised in this county. I have always lived here. I plan to die here. For me to see my community to come together to do this … was powerful," said community member Jennifer Davis.
Throughout the hour-long ceremony, speakers on both sides mentioned that this is not a reaction to any specific incident in Gaston County. That’s not to say that there aren't problems here.
"The profiling has to stop … I hope they understand that not all African American males are not doing drugs or selling drugs. There are many African American males doing great things," said Gaston County pastor Rodney Freeman.
The Gaston County Sheriff agrees.
"You're always going to have specific instances when people don't think they were treated fairly. But you have the commitment from the law enforcement chiefs to always look into any accusations of unfair treatment," said Sheriff Alan Cloninger.
The point of a contract is for both preachers of the word and protectors of the law to safeguard the best interest of the community with a little give-and-take.
"The clergy are agreeing to support the police in terms of adequate compensation, proper training, and even recruiting members of our congregation to help diversify our law enforcement agencies in Gaston County. Law enforcement agencies are pledging to follow best practices of law enforcement," said Richard Boyce with the Gaston Clergy and Citizens Coalition.
At the end the day, the true test will be when these principles go beyond mere paper into practice.
The group called GC3 - which stands for Gaston clergy & citizens coalition - helped put the covenant in motion.
The leaders said they hope to see neighboring counties follow their lead and adopt a contract between the community and law enforcement.