A decades-old issue is creating a sense of uneasiness in the Syracuse community, for both adults and children.
"My connection and concern is always going to be about my baby,” said Syracuse resident Talina Jones.
Jones worries her son, who has Down syndrome, will be affected by the police department's use of force policy.
"He's black. He's young. He's heavyset,” Jones said. “Then when you ask him to do something, he doesn't always comply. It takes him a second to process things. Then when he speaks back and asks an actual question, you might not understand. For too many people, that resulted in their death, and they had all the abilities to do those things."
Jones is one of many residents who discussed solutions at the Syracuse Police Accountability and Reform Coalition (SPAARC) and NY Civil Liberties Union panel.
"The existing policy needs to be made much more specific in terms of describing and defining use of force, defining conditions under which it can be engaged in,” said Peter McCarthy, a Syracuse Citizen Review Board chair.
"There is no current ban on chokeholds in our use of force policy,” said Theresa Rocha Beardall, a Syracuse Police Accountability and Reform Coalition coordinator. “We would like to see our use of force policy focus on de-escalation and to have a very tough important conversation about not using force on our children."
They also want officers to be held accountable to improve the relationship between police and the community.
"The message to the police department that we're not out to get them,” said McCarthy.
But it needs to be a collaborative effort.
"If we all roll up our sleeves and are willing to work to create a better Syracuse with more robust policies, I'm convinced we can do it,” said Rocha Beardall.
"I have to be a part of shifting the world as it currently is because he is here, my niece is here,” said Jones. “As long as they're here, we have to do what we can to make sure they have a life worth living."
SPAARC will present its plan to the mayor and police department by next year.