Barbershop Forum: Bridging relationships between the community and police

Members of the community and police talk at Master's Barbershop in November 2016 as part of a monthly series of barbership forums moderated by KTVU's Paul Chambers.

Tensions are high in America between people of color and police. Fatal shootings of black men are the lightning rod of this debate. And Oakland and the surrounding Bay Area is no different. Members of the community and law enforcement reached out to KTVU’s Paul Chambers in the fall of 2016, asking him to moderate “barbershop” conversations between the two groups to see if they could bridge their understanding of each other and find ways to improve their relationship. Chambers holds once-a-month sessions at different barbershops in the city, and is documenting these forums in the following video vignettes.


KTVU’s Paul Chambers explains what his pieces are about:


KTVU’s Paul Chambers takes to Master’s Barbershop in San Leandro to talk with real people about the origins of the Black Lives Matter movement to try to solve this question: Why doesn’t America rise up when a black man is shot by police?



Why when a white suspect kills someone, that man is usually taken alive by police? And when it’s a black man, he’s often shot or choked to death. KTVU’s Paul Chambers moderates a discussion at Master’s Barbershop in San Leandro where some in law enforcement realize they need to change the culture. He kicks off the conversation by asking, “Who’s had a run-in with law enforcement?”



What’s it like to be both an African-American man and a police officer? KTVU’s Paul Chambers  moderates a barbershop discussion at Master’s Barbershop in San Leandro where black cops explain that they are just like everyone else – they have biases and they get scared too. But recognizing that is the first step to change. Taking responsibility to break the cycle and reporting bad police officers will help break the cycle of violence.



KTVU's Paul Rogers talks to community members and police at barbershop Station 33 in Oakland. The topic on this night was mental health. Many thought that police shouldn’t have to be health care providers, but they are expected to deescalate situations better than a citizen. The crowd also debated whether cops are “pigs.” 



KTVU’s Paul Chambers discusses race with criminal justice students from De LaSalle High School in Concord. He told the students that he had a gun pulled on him by a police officer in the Bay Area and has experienced racism throughout his life. The conversation also revolved around hoodies and how that style of dress can unfairly bias people against people of color. 



KTVU’s Paul Chambers facilitates a barbershop discussion with about 100 people at KTVU's Paul Chambers talks race relations at San Leandro's Ce-Jay's Barbershop on April, 17, 2017. The topics ranged from why “young people are killing each other,” a teenage girl begging for help and guidance, and a black man asking for “black space.” A police officer asked the crowd to come take a ride-a-along with him.

More than 200 people met at the Cypress Mandela Training Center in East Oakland during the seventh Barbershop Forum. It was attended by community members, Oakland;s police chief and the Alameda County District Attorney. At the end, a young girl asks, "Are you racist?"


Police officers in the East Bay speak at a Barbershop Forum hosted by KTVU's Paul Chambers, explaining that they can't do a good job without the help of the community. But one woman asked: What type of changes will you  make to traffic stops to make me feel safe?

Community members in San Leandro expressed their views to KTVU's Paul Chambers during a Barbershop Forum about how they want the killings to stop, about the pain and fear they have of police stops, and how they themselves need to step up to rely on themselves.

This month marks the one-year anniversary of the Barbershop Forum series piloted by KTVU reporter Paul Chambers to create dialogue between the public and police.


Enjoy KTVU's Christmas special recapping a year of Barbershop Forum's. The Barbershop Forum started a year ago, as a way for police and the community sides to discuss concerns. Conversations got heated. And now, both sides are slowly moving toward common ground. 


For the first time since the Barbershop Forum began, the group went behind bars to talk directly with inmates.  The group went to the Santa Rita jail. a familiar scenario for some forum members who served behind bars themselves.