Community Rights Campaign
CRC joins Dignity In Schools (LA) training for 200 LASPD officers
It looks like a school assembly except that sitting in the auditorium are 200 LA School Police officers, and on the stage is a panel of community organizers who are giving the police officers a workshop in how to treat students more fairly.
In early August, the Community Rights Campaign joined a training for LASPD officers arranged by Dignity In Schools (DSC-LA). With fellow DSC-LA members Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) and CADRE, we conducted a training to educate LASPD officers about problems with police conduct and police misconduct when interacting with students who are tardy or truant. It was a historic exchange, the first of its kind between community organizers and school police, marked by high tension.
I was the CRC's presenter. We also had several of our youth members there, along with a great group of students from YJC and a parent leader and a couple of organizers from CADRE.
Bristling and tension from the floor
Unfortunately, the atmosphere was rough. About a third of the officers refused to listen in good faith and were constantly disruptive and uncooperative. They heckled us from the floor and interrupted our presentations. The worst moments were when YJC presented 2 skits.
In the first, the skit showed a student being stopped by an LASPD officer for being late to school The student gave a good reason for being late--that he had to take his younger sibling to school first--but the officer went ahead and put the student in handcuffs, searched his bag, and then wrote a ticket. The second skit showed the aftermath of a student fight, with bystanding students being dispersed with pepper spray.
After each skit, the presenters asked the officer audience, "Do you think the officer in the skit handled the situation well? What could he have done better?" Officers shouted back, "Nothing! That's exactly what you need to do!" "You guys are only showing one side!" "You didn't even show it right--you forgot to give a warning first!"
Things got so bad that at one point, a lieutenant had to get up and remind the officers: "We've asked you to listen and to be appropriate. You don't have to agree but you need to give these people your attention."
There were some good things that came out of it, though. First, LAUSD board members' offices were there and witnessed the whole thing.
And then at the end, there were a lot of officers who came up to us individually. Some apologized for the inappropriate conduct of their colleagues. Some agreed with us, saying, "I agree with you guys about the problems, I have the same concerns." There were even some officers who worked at the schools where we are organizing who came up to say that we should find some time to sit down and talk about how to do better on some of these issues at those schools.
About Carla Gonzalez
- Jan 22 2013