Philadelphians, including a few mayoral candidates, weigh in on how to improve police and community relations.
If you watch black sitcoms you’ll notice the characters often making snide remarks about police officers, usually referring to either racial profiling or use of force.
For example, in an episode of “Sanford and Son,” a popular show which lasted for five years in the 70’s, the son, Lamont, tells his father, Fred, that “hypertension and heart disease kill more blacks than anything in America,” to which Fred responds:
“I didn’t know that, I thought it was the police.”
Another example can be found in the early 90’s gem, Roc, which starred Mr. Charles Dutton as a Baltimore sanitation worker. In one episode, Roc’s brother, Joey, is house-sitting for a friend in a swanky neighborhood. To earn some extra cash, Roc picks up a job painting the lavish apartment. But when Roc arrives, Joey doesn’t answer the door, and soon after the police arrive, throw Roc up against a wall, questions why he’s in the area, and then places him in jail.
When Roc finally gets home and his family questions where he’s been, his reply, directed towards Joey, was something to the effect of “you live in a white neighborhood.”
The strained relationship between police and communities of color isn’t a new phenomenon by any means, nor has it just now become the dominating topic of conversations among black and brown people in America.
Mainstream white society, however – after high profile incidents of police violence towards unarmed men and women of color, and the recent slew of reports from the Department of Justice – are finally acknowledging, to a degree, the injustices perpetuated by law enforcement officers that have become an unwelcomed institution in many neighborhoods populated by minorities.
“The recommendations from the Feds were all valid and it recognized what we’ve known for a long time the relationship to be in our neighborhoods all across the city, said Mr. Douglas Oliver, the youngest candidate currently in the race to become the 99th mayor of Philadelphia, referring to the Department of Justice’s Collaborative Reform Review of the Police Department.
Mr. Oliver, who supports civilian oversight and cultural and sensitivity training for officers, said “we know how we got here” – to a place of alarming mistrust on both sides – and “we know how to get back.”
“It’s possible to fix the strain, but it’s not going to be easy,” said Mr. Devante Leyeom, who, at age 21, directed AmeriKKKa Black, a documentary about police brutality which debuted in Philadelphia over the weekend.
“Police have resources to do community service… to bring communities into the police force to understand how they work,” said Mr. Adan Perez, who served as the cinematographer on AmeriKKKa Black.
Echoing Mr. Perez’s comment about leveraging police resources for community engagement was Temple University first year PhD student Mr. Juwan Bennett, whose older brother recently became a Philadelphia police officer.
“Officials should focus on expanding PAL centers,” he said, also pointing out that there’s the police cadet program that takes youth every Saturday to train on State Road, and, at certain security events, allow youth to shadow, like a mentorship program.
It’s the micro interactions, says Mr. Bennett, which will begin to change the tide.
Mr. Nelson Diaz, a former City Solicitor who’s also running to become the next mayor of Philadelphia, thinks along the lines of Mr. Bennett as it relates to community policing.
Mr. Diaz wants police to be “familiar parts of communities” and ensure “children have relationship with police using PAL centers.”
A more “stereotypical approach” to solving the problem, says Mr. Bennett, was proposed by Mr. Jim Kenney, a mayoral candidate who spent 23 years as an At-Large Philadelphia City Councilman and is responsible for decriminalizing marijuana.
Mr. Kenney, who’s in favor of implementing all 91 of the recommendations provided by the DOJ, thinks all officers, regardless of their race, should take a “course on civil rights history.”
“Every officer coming out of the academy needs to know what Selma and Birmingham means… what it means to people who went through those times,” said Mr. Kenney, who also wants to rethink how the city recruits police officers.
Mr. Milton Street, who many perceive is the underdog in the 2015 Philadelphia mayoral race, says to improve police and community relations, trust needs to be restored, and stop and frisk needs to be repealed.
Mr. Street, if elected to the city’s highest office, will implement a community policing force that will perform “community surveillance.”
“Surveillance reduces crimes,” states Mr. Street, who added “the only people who will stop crime are the people who live in that community… you can’t import people to do that.”
As seen my by the many voices and opinions weighing in on this important issue, improving police and relations is a daunting task, but not impossible.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™