News & Views
In a televised forum on Thursday night February 21, local teens engaged in a serious conversation about crime and trust with city and school district police officials. During the 2-hour exchange, Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan told the teens that he wants to hear the voice of the youth, but more importantly, he wants to hear about solutions.
“I don’t want to hear whining,” he said.
Jordan was joined by OPD Lt. LeRonne Armstrong and Oakland Unified School District Police Chief James Williams in the discussion, which was facilitated by Youth Focus: Oakland’s Future, a production of the KDOL-TV Studio and the Media Education Alliance.
Oakland youth pressed Jordan and Armstrong about the low number of officers living in the city, whether incoming recruits will be culturally sensitive, and community distrust. Jordan acknowledged the current police force simply does not have the manpower to adequately respond to the numerous crimes reported on a daily basis.
However, he dismissed one teen’s concerns about the low number of officers who are Oakland residents. Jordan said that you don’t have to be from Oakland to understand violent crime. He told them that he probably saw worse violence in Brooklyn when he was growing up.
The teens addressed similar concerns with Williams. One student presented the results of a survey he had administered to his classmates, which indicated that roughly 70% of his peers do not trust the police. Williams responded that he believes the key to improving the situation is relationship building.
“Schools are some of the safest places to be in Oakland,” he said. He believes that building stronger officer-student-teacher relationships will help prevent fights, one of the most common issues involving law enforcement in schools.
Overall, the participants and their respective organizations seemed optimistic about the future of these talks. Both the teens and law enforcement representatives agreed on the need to build mutual trust through increased community-police interactions. The OPD has agreed to participate in a follow-up panel discussion, which should occur later this summer.
The panel of about fifteen teens represented Media Enterprise Alliance (the event host), Oakland Youth Commission, Youth Uprising, Bay Area Urban Debate League, Youth Alive/Teens on Target, Youth Together, and United Roots.