ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — Editor's Note: Gomez's pronouns are ze/zey/zem
USF student Destiny Gomez hasn't had the best connection with law enforcement.
"I have fear when I see officers, especially in uniform," ze said.
Yet, the 23-year-old tells ABC Action News that ze is experiencing a change in perspective.
"I feel like I was hopeful," Gomez said.
This comes after Gomez chose to challenge those fears, by organizing a forum for local police, students, and members of the community to talk about race and policing.
It's a conversation that led to some uncomfortable admissions.
"I get a little bit nervous, I get a little bit anxious, I feel my throat tightening up," one student said.
It came much to the sadness of campus and local police.
"It just breaks my heart when someone says they're afraid of someone in uniform," USF Police Chief David Hendry said.
But there was also healing and learning.
Audience members learned that local police are incorporating the community in their hiring process including requiring racial sensitivity training, educating the community on the appropriate tactics and seeking out more opportunities like this to just talk.
"I think it's going to be a work each and every day because we can take three steps forward and one officer can change that a the moment's notice," St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway said.
It's a talk that Gomez wants to see happen more often in the community, with the hope that one day it will spread beyond the borders of the bay area.
"We lead by example, we show how the change we're making in our community is affecting our community in a positive way, and then other communities will follow suit," Gomez said.