At 5 p.m. on Monday, March 28, a group of students rallied on the Chapel steps to raise awareness about the issues of modern policing. For one hour, student RYG members, along with University faculty members Dr. Keith Osajima and Dr. Zack Ritter, spoke about prevalent policing issues and how we can possibly fix them.
“It’s an issue that affects all of us,” said senior Jake Bellows.
Bellows explained that RYG has close ties to modern policing issues because the organization was founded in 1992, around the time riots broke out in Los Angeles over the Rodney King beating.
RYG organized a similar event last year on police brutality, but felt that they wanted to expand the topic of this year’s event because modern policing issues include more than just physical aspects, such as excessive force. They also wanted to talk about high stress levels in police departments, high levels of depression among officers, unlawful searches, and accountability.
“We’re not just trying to criminalize police,” said sophomore Brenden Harlan. “We’re trying to give people solutions as to how we can keep police accountable.”
Only two states in the United States, California and Texas, require police officers to report if they’ve shot anyone.
“There are people with guns, people with authority who can shoot civilians and not say anything about it,” Senior Callaghan Smith said. “That is not accountability.”
Another reason RYG hopes to bring more aspects of policing into the conversation is to better understand the issue as a whole. They argued that one can’t understand the issues fully without examining race, law, education, and ideologies.
Dr. Zack Ritter, the University’s Associate Director for Campus Diversity and Inclusion, provided some statistics during his speech: 70% of students who are involved in in-school arrests are black or latino; black students are 3.5 times more likely to be suspended than white students, and it costs $9,000 per year to send a child to public school while it costs $62,000 per year to keep an inmate in prison.
A main purpose of the rally was to encourage attendees to do something about these problems.
“[The rally] doesn’t matter if we don’t do anything with the knowledge that we hear today,” Ritter said.
Ritter and the other speakers suggested joining organizations, getting involved in programs like REACH, educating themselves, and dreaming of a better future.
“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public” Ritter said during his speech, quoting Cornel West.
RYG passed out papers with directions to sign a petition by the Department of Justice that would do the following: “Mandate that all police departments collect and report data on a quarterly basis on police shootings and other deaths in custody, as well as stops, frisks, searches, citations, arrests, and uses of force” and “Create a national public database of this data, including a breakdown by race, gender, age, outcome, and the officer’s basis for the encounter and action.”
The organization also mentioned an app called “Mobile Justice” that will keep law enforcement accountable with the help of technology. The app allows you to record incidences which are automatically sent to ACLU and saved onto the phone, report incidences, witness activities posted by others nearby, receive alerts from ACLU, and learn your rights.
Smith ended the rally by summing up the policing issues that our communities face today and encouraging all to spread the word about the petition and the possible solutions.
If anyone is interested, RYG will be hosting another event about youth LGBTQ homelessness at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 31 at CDI.
[Images courtesy of Sky Ung, Redlands Bulldog photographer]