The Policing and Race event, held by the John C. West Forum examined the relationship between law enforcement officers and the communities of color that they serve.
The panelists discussed the ongoing point of concern about officer involved shootings that are frequently reported in the media and they also introduced possible solutions to reduce deaths.
The panel was made up of three experts on the matter of race, politics, and policing – Dr. Adolphus Belk Jr., a Winthrop University political studies professor, Baraki Sellers, a politician and a CNN commentator, and Jackie Swindler, the current director of the South Carolina Criminial Justice Academy.
In Dr. Belk’s opening statement he expressed to the audience some ways that the bias is represented in these communities.
“Stop and frisk was a big deal. They [police] stopped more Black and Latino men in New York City than there were actually Black and Latino men in New York City.” Essentially meaning that the same individuals were stopped by law enforcement repeatedly.
Sellers noted that he wanted the audience to hear opinions on the subject “from the perspective of the movement,” which would be the Black Lives Matter movement and the social justice movement as a whole.
While discussing the importance of fairness and ethics in cases that involve a certain amount of cruelty, Sellers also encouraged individuals to take responsibility for their “intellectual laziness and to have nuance when tackling the idea of race in America”.
Swindler, who has been in law enforcement for more than 40 years, pointed out the “awesome power and responsibility” of being a police officer.
He has been trying to make change by implementing de-escalation training.
“We are constantly teaching about biases and communication and how to respond and talk to people. We put new recruits in situations that require scenario based decision making and also, thinking about the consequences of their decisions.”
Belk’s parting words offer insight on what we as students could do to improve our country.
Belk encourages students to be active members of the community and help create the change that many students so desperately want to see in the world.
“You cannot be passive in all of this, and that means getting involved.”