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Rapid City police community advisory committee begins work

RAPID CITY (AP) -- A police advisory group that grew out of racial tensions in Rapid City last year has begun its work. The 15-member Community Advisory Committee organized by the police department met for the first time in late January, with a g...

RAPID CITY (AP) - A police advisory group that grew out of racial tensions in Rapid City last year has begun its work.

The 15-member Community Advisory Committee organized by the police department met for the first time in late January, with a goal of improving relations and prioritizing policing strategies in the city.

The group began as the Cultural Advisory Committee. Police announced its formation last summer to improve cultural understanding between law enforcement and the community.

The title has changed, but the goal hasn't, police Chief Karl Jegeris said Wednesday.

"I believe this collaborative approach will have a significant positive impact on crime reduction and community safety for years to come," he said.

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Officials said the committee is a voice for all cultures and races but that a focus is on ensuring the Native American culture is adequately represented. More than half the group's members are American Indian.

Committee Coordinator Vaughn Vargas, appointed by Jegeris last year, is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

Native Americans make up nearly two-thirds of the people arrested in Rapid City. An independent study on race relations last year indicated friction between the American Indian community and the mostly white police force, but also a desire to improve the situation.

Racial tensions were strained last year by several incidents including Native American children being sprayed with beer during a minor league hockey game.

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