Community Forum with Richmond Police Department

I am not going to lie, I was skeptical about this event at first because we have a lot of forums and do a lot of talking in Richmond. But alas, I adore art and am always game for talking.

So I arrived at the Richmond Public Library Auditorium on E Franklin and was absolutely blown away. The art was created by incarcerated juveniles and was a representation of their feelings and emotions. To say it was moving would not do it justice. Each piece was deeply reflective and packed with meaning.

To set the tone, Art 180 and Richmond Police Chief Durham kicked it off. For the three days prior to the event, RPD trained with Art 180. The goal this evening was for groups of youth advocates, youths, police, and community members to come together and try to re-write the script of arrest scenarios.

The overall format was five tables had scenarios that involved youths being arrested and there were rounds of discussion with different goals.

                Round 1- Discuss what you see in the scenario

                Round 2- Re-write the script of the scenario so an arrest does not happen

                Round 3- Re-write your script so there is a challenge you have to write through

Each round pushed participants further into a dialogue about how both police and youths could make changes to impact the outcome. At the end of the exercise, the groups shared by the police and youths acting out the scripts written.

There is no way I can express how powerful this experience was with written word. But I want to share some of what the attendees said they wanted to remember from the evening:

·         Remember that we are able to talk with eachother

·         Slow down. We make mistakes when we go too quickly.

·         All scenarios have different options.

·         The community and policy are willing to talk about different solutions.

·         The group of participants was extremely diverse.

·         We all want to work toward a common goal.

·         How genuine, authentic, real, heartbroken and passionate everyone is and how much they want things to change.

·         All perspectives are relevant.

·         The power of community. You can make a difference.

·         Courageous young people and officers are willing to take a stand.

·         The importance of building rapport before you accuse.

·         The responsibility is not always on the police; we need to take some of the responsibility too.

·         How careful we have to be when we have power over another person.

·         Adults need to educate youths on their rights and what they can do to minimize the potential to encounter a police officer.

·         It is easy to become cynical, but there is hope.

·         We don’t have to keep adapting to change. We can be the change.

·         We need to acknowledge our own privilege. And if we have privilege, be a mentor.

·         Officers need to build relationships within the community they serve.

·         Empathy is more important than sympathy.

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