Despite below freezing temperatures, between 75 and 100 men, young and old, participated this morning in the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Men’s Summit. The summit was called to start a dialog between young men in the District of Columbia and the Metropolitan Police department (MPDC). In the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, and Tamir Rice such dialogs are needed to reduce the growing tension between the police and citizens.
Pastor Terry D. Streeter set the tone for the summit when he proclaimed that despite the chants that “black lives matter’, or “blue lives matter”, we need to be reminded that “ALL lives matter”. There was an impressive panel from the MPDC including Assistant Chief Diane Groomes, Lieutenant Ralph Neal, and two officers from the Youth Division. The panel also included Howard University’s Chief of Police Brian Jordan.
Questions ranged from policies around the use of deadly force, do’s and don’ts during traffic stops and other encounters with local police. Some of the do\’s – keep hands visible during traffic stops, avoid abrupt movements, stay calm, and know your rights. The don\’ts included, among other things, arguing with the officer and forfeiting your rights. The panel advised that male college students should be aware of and understand Title 9 with respect to sexual assault. Specifically that, \”a female student who has been drinking cannot consent to sex.\”
The session included some of the programs offered by the MPDC including mentoring and role playing to allow youths to get a feel for what the police go through during a \”routine\” traffic stop or encounter. They admitted that these programs aren\’t well advertised within the community and that the police department could do a better job using social media to get the word out. They also advised of the negative impact that social media is having as the source for a lot of youth violence as issues or disagreements move from cyberspace to the streets.
As with any real dialog, there were moments when questions or comments created tension between the officers and the participants. However, both the officers and attendees handled those moments with respect and understanding for the situations, as well as respect for the venue in which the summit was taking place. The venue being a place to come together, dialog, and try to build a better relationship between the police and the residents.
The meeting ended with a word of prayer and the promise that there will be another summit in the next couple of months to continue the dialog with the hope that an even larger representation of youth will be in attendance.