Pistons help convene town hall with youth, law enforcement

DETROIT — The Detroit Pistons helped convene a town hall meeting Thursday night that included area youth, representatives from law enforcement and several athletes from the city’s pro teams.

The event ended later than scheduled – which was a sign that the discussion was constructive.

“I think what we all wanted to get out was, as an organization, as a community, as a city of Detroit was: What can we do to help? What can we do to be better?” said Tobias Harris of the Pistons. “There was a lot that was said, a lot of points that were taken. A lot of opinions, but all coming from the right area and the right space.”

There were representatives from all four of Detroit’s major pro teams involved with the event. The town hall portion was closed to the media and general public, but some participants spoke to reporters afterward.

Ike McKinnon, former police chief and deputy mayor of Detroit, said events like these can be significant because young people look up to athletes. There are obvious benefits to this type of outreach from law enforcement to the community.

“I think the biggest thing is getting a sense of trust,” McKinnon said. “If we can get trust, that’s most important.”

Harris echoed that sentiment, saying it was important to hear from law enforcement.

“We have to have a firm understanding of both sides,” he said. “They leave their house every morning not knowing if they’re going to come home alive. … That was said, and I think everybody really took into that also.”

Jocelyn Benson, CEO of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) also was in attendance. RISE is a nonprofit organization that tries to use sports to improve race relations. She said it’s important to move beyond symbolic protests and take concrete steps to create change.

This event was one such effort, and it was no surprise that the Pistons were heavily involved. Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy has made it clear that he supports his players in their attempts to make a social impact.

“I think everybody has to be better and want better and try to do better,” Harris said.