The New Bedford Chapter of the NAACP with Lawyers for Civil Rights will present an important forum this evening that all residents could benefit from attending. Organizers say the "Know Your Rights" presentation will feature "one-on-one conversations by LCR attornies on the rights of community members and how to manage interactions with law enforcement in a safe manner."

I applaud the two civil rights groups for their efforts to educate young people about such important civic issues. It is essential for all Americans to know their rights and be willing and able to defend those rights.

I was amazed at how many folks accepted widespread abuses of their religious freedom and other rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution during the recent pandemic. Civics should be required learning in our public schools, but until that happens, it is up to groups such as the NAACP to fill the void.

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While I commend NAACP President LaSella Hall for presenting this forum, I respectfully disagree with his premise that New Bedford Police regularly exert excessive force on minority youth. He sites the largely discredited Citizens for Juvenile Justice report alleging racial profiling by the local police. Hall seems to be in pursuit of a solution to a problem that quite frankly just doesn't exist. I wish he would direct his energy in a more positive fashion.

President Hall should work towards establishing a relationship of trust between the minority community and law enforcement. That requires a willingness to engage in honest and meaningful dialogue with the police and our elected officials. Teaching young people to fear and disrespect law enforcement is not a winning approach and could actually worsen the situation. It's time to end the distrust and suspicion and move forward.

This evening's presentation is from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the NAACP branch on Cedar Street. I hope it is well attended.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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