Twenty-nine people, including two police officers, joined us at Battle on May 4, and you can review the notes of the discussion here. As with our prior dialogue, the National Issue Forum guide on Safety and Justice was used to spark conversation, and the dialogue was one of the ones reported for this year’s national “A Public Voice” initiative. Although there were divergent views on strategies and how to best proceed, some clear and common themes emerged throughout the discussion. These included the importance of building a sense of community; the need for mutual respect, empathy and compassion; and the importance of clear, ongoing education and dialogue. In the closing portion of the session one of the youth expressed appreciation for the officers sharing their perspective and stated next time he saw an officer in the coffee shop or at a gas station he was going to try saying hi. Several of the adults who were present expressed appreciation for the leadership showed by the youth in arranging for these dialogues. At the end of the evening two of the youth raised with one of the officers the possibility of a joint youth-officer training session on Youth Mental Health First Aid, using a curriculum supported by MU Extension. Winter break was identified as a time that might be possible. We are recording that idea here so it can be picked up and planned for next semester, and not lost over the summer!
We continued our dialogue on April 18, using the “Safety and Justice” dialogue guide created by the Kettering Foundation and National Issues Forum for this year’s “A Public Voice” effort. We were joined by a very thoughtful group of students from Battle High, who will be leading their own dialogue on May 4 from 4:30 to 7 pm. The public is welcome.
Several areas of agreement emerged from our inter-generational, economically and racially diverse group. The primary theme was that everyone wants to feel safe in their own neighborhood. With regard to the “working together” option in the dialogue guide, the key sentiment was that police and citizens need to first come together as fellow human-beings and get to know each other. Besides future dialogues, ideas for “coming together” included barbecues, sports, ride-a-longs, and mentoring opportunities. Another emphasis was the need to build bridges between poorer and wealthier neighborhoods.
To address inequities in the system, another option in the guide, the observation was made that in order to do that people need to first know what is going on and that means having citizens who are willing to ask the hard questions and knowing where to report. It also means having leaders who are willing to answer those questions as the Supreme Court is now trying to do with municipal court reform. We generated several ideas – including simply posting an 800 number for comments and concerns on courtroom doors — that might help in this effort. As with the prior on-line discussion, there was also support within the group for focusing police resources on serious and violent crime rather than minor drug or traffic offenses.
The third option, providing training in de-escalating violence to police and citizens, was supported by the group, which also wondered how to establish a community culture that rewards de-escalation. A final theme was mutual respect, both in the sharing of experiences and being willing to listen and accept another’s perspective on their own experience.
This dialogue will continue on-line on April 24th from 5 to 6 pm – the link for joining will be posted Monday on the Trib website. You can review the “Safety and Justice” dialogue guide or watch this video or simply join in.
Your voice matters! Join us on-line on April 24th from 5 to 6 pm or on May 4 at Battle High from 4:30 to 7 p.m.
The “Wake-Up” campaign at Battle High School will host a Neighbor2Neighbor dialogue on February 7. Doors open at 4:30, and the program starts right at 5. Those of us attending the community commons have really enjoyed getting to know the Battle High students who have come and participated in other community dialogues. Now they have planned their own dialogue on community. Come out and support the youth who are leading this event!
What: Neighbor2Neighbor Dialogue at Battle High School
When: February 7, 4:30 to 7 pm
Where: Battle High School Performing Arts Center