The backstory of the Barbershop Forums

KTVU's Barbershop Forums came about because of the vision of three men -- two law enforcement officers, and a community organizer.

"Both my sons were with Oscar Grant when Oscar Grant was murdered. They were on the platform with him. So I became an organizer.  Through organizing I was so angry at the police and I wasn't feeling it but then I met Bobby Hookfin and Mike Carroll," says community organizer Jack Bryson. 

"We needed to relationship build. We started at the barbershop forums because it was a small forum where we wanted to build our base," adds Oakland Police Department Lt. Bobby Hookfin. 

"We also want to make sure that we're focused on a solution and not just come here and point fingers at each other but what can we do together so we can make our communities better," says Alameda County Sheriff 's Lt. Mike Carroll.

Over the last nine months, the discussions have grown from a small barbershop in San Leandro to KTVU's seventh and largest forum yet.  Last month, more than 200 people showed up at Cypress Mandela Training Center in East Oakland, with panelist ready to answer direct questions from citizens.  Police chief', city officials and the District Attorney of Alameda County were on hand to explain their policies.  One of the most emotional topics: officer-involved shootings.

"There's a paradigm shift going on in law enforcement about just because you could legally meet a threshold for use of force, doesn't mean you should," says Oakland Police Department Chief Anne Kirkpatrick.

She says her department has reduced its use of force by 70 percent.  It was also a chance to explain how an investigation into an officer involved shooting takes place. 

For the first time as a group, those making the decisions were put in the hot seat.  "Do they have a drug testing, for these officers who do the shootings," says audience member Melody Davis.  "If there's a reason to test them we test them," says Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern.

"I haven't been here for a shooting yet. Apparently, we do not do that as a practice," says Kirkpatrick.

Another audience member asked, "Why is it OK for police officers to open and close their body cameras when they want?"  "The reason you don't have it on 24 /7 is that we're interviewing children because of sexual assaults. You don't have your camera on then. So it has to be manually activated," says Ahern.

One man, whose son was shot and killed by police questioned, how is it that law enforcement and the legal system say they're independent of each during an investigation when they work side by side?

"Why do you claim that these investigations are done independently when they're actually done side by side," says audience member Rick Perez.

"They will observe or participate in the statement taken by the officers who are involved in the shooting. But after that there's no side by side," says Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O' Malley.

"My issue isn't how the investigation took place. The issue I'm concerned with is why did the shooting take place in the first place because that is the issue," says Civil Rights Attorney John Burris.

And for some, the issue boils down to this question from a little boy.  "Are you racist?" he asked the crowd.

That question took many by surprise and some were upset that it was asked.  Some felt the child's parents put him up to it.  Regardless, the question is one that many in the room and at home have.