Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler says the tragic death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, at the hands of a community watch member, is a hard learned lesson to let police do their job.
"Do not engage, unless someone is in physical harms way. Call police," said Chief Fowler. "That's what we are trained for, that's what we are paid to do."
It's a message that is made clear to neighborhood watch groups in the city. There are more than 100 of them in Syracuse, some much more active than others. And the police say they try to work with each one of them. They often have officers at their monthly meetings to work with neighbors.
"They are able to talk with residents about any concerns or issues they may have," said Mercedes Bloodworth with Syracuse United Neighbors.
That open conversation has helped build a stronger relationship between the police force and the community it serves. In a diverse city with nearly 150,000 residents, understanding different cultures and races is a must for officers. Chief Fowler says he feels race relations have been improving.
"Race, culture, ethnicity they are extremely important to our citizens so as a department it's something we have to be aware of," said Chief Fowler.
In the wake of Martin's death there has been outrage across the country. The community watch volunteer says he shot Martin in self defense and he has not been arrested or charged with any crime. But others believe it was racially motivated and say justice needs to be served.
There have been rallies around the U.S. including in Central New York. Monday, about 100 students and community members gathered on SU's campus to speak out about what they feel are injustices. Friday, there is another march scheduled starting at 6:30 in Downtown Syracuse in Armory Square.