Talk show hosts, news anchors, politicians, community leaders, and law enforcement officers routinely call for “honest, open dialogue” on police and community relations. There are valid reasons why these conversations don’t often happen or if they do, they tend to end in shouting matches. The subject is emotionally charged, and the exchange can be difficult and uncomfortable.
Building and strengthening relationships requires effort, acknowledging the need for change, and everyone being committed to accept some responsibility. Difficult? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely.
The Black Student SUCCESS Project sponsored a workshop on Sept. 23 that afforded Parkland students the opportunity to engage with Parkland police officers. Student questions were unflinching and hard-hitting. Honest. Skeptical.
Chief William Colbrook and Sgt. Matt Kopmann responded with respect and care and were outstanding presenters. Both leaders exhibited a genuine pride in their jobs, carefully described their roles and duties as police officers, and demonstrated a genuine understanding of concerns.
Our students stated they had more questions and wanted more time. Part two will be scheduled at a later date to continue this important conversation. Stay tuned.
[Donna Tanner-Harold is a counselor in Parkland’s Counseling and Advising Center and coordinates Black Student Success Project activities.]