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Sharpton calls for new, national forum on police reform during surprise NAACP speech

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Posted at 6:59 PM, Jul 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-20 18:59:00-04

CINCINNATI -- “We are not anti-police. We’re anti-wrong.”

That was the message of Reverend Al Sharpton, who made a surprise visit to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s annual convention, being held in downtown Cincinnati this week.

“We want police to be subject to the law they’re hired to enforce and to be investigated by outside investigators where there are no appearances of a conflict of interest,” he continued.

In his speech before the civil rights organization Wednesday, Sharpton called for a new, national forum on police reform that he said should be held in Baton Rouge, following the shooting death of Alton Sterling by police officers barely more than a week before three Baton Rouge officers were shot and killed.

Those shootings, and others that have taken place in recent weeks, set the tone for Sharpton’s speech and the convention itself, as an attempt to strike the uneven balance between calling for police reform and appearing anti-police — a conversation rooted in long-standing racial tensions.

“We are not hoodlums or thugs that are against police,” Sharpton said. “We are for the right thing whether you’re in a blue uniform or blue jeans.”

Retired Judge Nathaniel Jones, once the NAACP’s general counsel, agreed with the call for a new forum.

“I think any kind of conversation you have or dialogue, if it’s positive and constructive, it has a possibility of bearing good results,” Jones said to the convention Wednesday.

Jones condemned the officer-involved shootings of recent weeks, and said — in addition to Sharpton’s forum — there needs to be more education on these topics.

Sharpton said his National Action Network and the NAACP would be invited to participate in the forum.

WCPO web editor Pat LaFleur contributed to this report.