Blue Prints

Students work for increased police training

Dermot McMillian and Victoria Higgs

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American students have
grown accustomed to a police
presence in their schools. Given
the growing incidence of racial
tension and violence in schools
throughout the country, the role
of school resource officers is
more significant than ever.
Amid these increasing tensions
between police and people
of color, it is important to examine
the relationship between students
and officers.
Following the confederate flag
incident that occurred at the high
school just before Martin Luther
King Jr. Day, there was a notable
increase in police presence. Student
opinion varied on whether
or not the number of officers
present that day was necessary
or effective.
Malik Shabazz, a junior, said,
“I think that it was a good call to
get that many police because the
day after you didn’t know what
was gonna happen cause there
was still a lot of emotion left in
the air.”
Additionally, freshman Kelly
Baran said, “I trust the officers
that are in the school. They
didn’t want anything to happen,
they just wanted to be prepared
in case anything did happen.”
Aamira Trimble, a freshman
and member of the Minority
Student Coalition, said, “I
can see where they were coming
from if they thought that
increasing the number of cops
around would help, but it actually
makes it more intimidating.
It’s a lot of tension.”
Distrust and fear of the police
is something that’s become
ingrained in the minds of many
youth, especially those of color.
This partially comes from increasing
incidents of police
violence surfacing around the
country. According to the U.S.
Police Shootings Database and
the Bureau of Justice Statistics,
in 2017 alone, there have been
more than 1,000 homicides
committed by police officers in
America. 25 percent of victims
were black, despite making up
only 13 percent of the American
population, and only 33 percent
of blacks who were victims of
police brutality were suspected
of a violent crime and armed.
These instances bring anxiety
to those who fear ending up in a
similar situation, and lead people
to view the police negatively as a
collective group.
When asked why some students
view police negatively,
Officer Lee Buller, a school resource
officer at the high school,
had this response: “The way that
we’re portrayed in the media, the
fact that maybe they’ve never
had an interaction with a police
officer, or if they did, it was a really
bad day in their life, so they
aren’t able to get a fair view of
what we really do. We’re only
here to help and keep everyone
safe, especially in the school environment.
Once somebody has
a negative opinion of police, it’s
very hard to get over it.”
When talking about police,
Shabazz said, “You can’t group
them all together. That’s like saying
all black people rob, steal,
and smoke weed, and I don’t do
any of those things.”
While it is true that certain police
officer’s behavior should not
be the depiction of all police officers,
it is important to acknowledge
the steps that law enforcement
in America needs to take in
order to make all communities
feel safe.
Officers in Middletown and
around the country have yet to
make any substantial efforts to
increase police training for dealing
with youth or to form stronger
bonds between police and
youth in communities.
In Connecticut, officers are
currently only required to complete
training at the Police Academy
on how laws surrounding
youth differ than those for
adults.
A more detailed training on
how to ensure teenagers and
children feel safe and comfortable
in a situation is only optional
for officers.
A new program launched by
The National Organization of
Black Law Enforcement Executives
(NOBLE) seeks to fill this
much needed void in law enforcement
education. NOBLE,
an organization founded in 1976
that serves more than 60,000
youth throughout 60 worldwide
chapters, recently introduced an
online program called NOBLE
Center for Excellence that
aims to offer courses accessible
to all law enforcement officials.
The organization’s national
president, Clarence E. Cox, III,
said, “This is another step towards
providing critical training
to the law enforcement
community and the nation.”
This kind of program is something
Middletown could implement
to build relationships between
the young people of the
community and the police.
Middletown teenagers involved
in the Mayoral Youth
Cabinet at the Middletown
Youth Services Bureau recognized
the need for improvement
and have been working
to lessen the divide between
police and youth. The Mayoral
Youth Cabinet is a group
of Middletown students dedicated
to bridging the gap between
our youth, community,
and government. Jewel Lucien,
a member of the youth
cabinet’s Police & Youth subcommittee,
said, “The goal
of the committee is to help
youth who have been or may
be negatively affected by the
police. I think that having police
more involved in community
events is a good way to
go about improving this relationship.”
The students within
POLICE,
continued from page 1
this group are working on a
document they plan to present
to the Middletown Police
Department and mayor’s office.
Their intent is to inform
them of their concerns about
the situation, and to give suggestions
on how to approach
the issue. The plan the group
came up with involves three
critical areas of improvement
that could be implemented to
strengthen connection and interaction
between officers and
youth: building relationships,
building capacity, and building
community.
A training program that incorporates
these ideas and the
benefits it would bring are an
essential step for cultivating a
positive relationship founded
on trust between the police
and youth of Middletown.
Spreading awareness and
knowledge of the problems
that exist within our community
can be an integral step to
moving forward. Ryan Cudworth,
a freshman involved
with the Mayoral Youth Cabinet,
said, “I think that unless
we strengthen the relationship
between students and law enforcement
officers, there isn’t
any way increasing police
presence could positively affect
the school community.”
Similarly, Buller said, “I
think positive interactions
with the police are the only
thing that can mend it.

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Students work for increased police training