A monologue about a Latina woman who is confronted by the police in her home starts a conversation about community policing and law enforcement. Featuring conversations with a young Afro-Latina woman who channels her Puerto Rican father's stories about law enforcement into her writing and activism, Michael J. Chitwood, a police chief with a 53-year career in law enforcement, and Vashti Dubois and Dubois Stewart, a mother and son in the wake of a stop and frisk.
When Autumn Angelettie was given an assignment in her creative writing class to write a monologue about something that has been on her mind recently, she chose to write about community policing.
“I think when I was a kid the way I was taught to think about police officers was respect them, keep your distance,” Autumn, a young Afro-Latina woman, said when asked about how she feels about police. “Don’t really interact because things can go wrong really quickly.”
For Dubois Stewart, a young African American man, the latter sentiment flashed through his mind when he was stopped and frisked by the police for the first time recently. “I was terrified” he said. “I seriously thought I wouldn’t go away unharmed.”
Dubois’ mother, Vashti, knew this day would come. “We practiced,” she said, in order to avoid what could have happened. “It could’ve gone badly. It could’ve gone really badly. For no reason.”
The ongoing trauma has negative effects for communities and families on both sides of the badge.
For law enforcement officers, like Michael J. Chitwood, Superintendent of the Upper Darby Police, the pursuit of public safety is about working in the community to build relationships, trust, and familiarity. So when something goes fatally wrong, it’s a setback.
“Everybody deserves the opportunity to educate their children to sit down on their step to walk their dog and to enjoy life,” Chitwood says. “And that’s what our goal is. And I think sometimes we do it. But it’s a constant, continual being out there, being present, being a part of the community.”
further reading & Resources
For more information about police violence in the United States, check out Mapping Police Violence, a research collaborative collecting comprehensive data on police killings nationwide to quantify the impact of police violence in communities.
For our Philly crowd: Find out where the Democratic candidates for District Attorney stand on police shootings and policies like stop and frisk via Philly.com.
For some lighter fare and perhaps a smile, check out this article from the Washington Post about a video of a police encounter that ended in a dance off, which includes a compilation of some of the finer dancing cop moments. From the article: "When reached by phone, the officer in the video said she did not want to be identified because she didn’t want to make the story about her. 'It’s kind of embarrassing that this became so big,” she said. “This is what we do everyday.'"