Days of Dialogue creates opportunity for understanding

Caroline Connolly, guest writer

On Tuesday April 18, the APU Criminal Justice Department and the Institute for Nonviolence in Los Angeles (INVLA) hosted Days of Dialogue in the LAPC.

The INVLA is a non-profit organization that promotes non-violence between Los Angeles law enforcement and the community. INVLA hosts several Days of Dialogue events around the L.A. area.

Deshonna Collier-Goubil, Ph.D. Chair and Associate Professor for the Department of Criminal Justice, said the purpose of the event was to start a dialogue between law enforcement and the community.

“Police officers are members of the community, and their voices matter just as much as the voices of other members in the community,” Collier-Goubil said. “This is a community justice event. This might not be the solution to solving the problem of police brutality and brutality towards officers, but it’s a first step for the future.”

Police officers from the San Gabriel Valley area, APU Campus Safety officers, students, faculty and staff attended the event. Participants sat together at tables in order to discuss current issues in our nation that affect both law enforcement and the community. Each table had a facilitator to lead the discussion. Some topics included the impact media coverage has on the communities’ perception of law enforcement and what action could be taken to ensure that criminal profiling is fair, lawful and just.

At one particular table, Officer C.G. Thompson of the Pasadena Police Department, said, “The media will focus on certain areas, such as South Central or other areas with a large population of black and/or Hispanic people, and therefore these are the people being arrested. There are three sides to every story.”

Thompson went on to say, “Arrest can be a social failure. Law enforcement needs to work more on helping the mentally ill and those in need. Arrest can do more harm than good in certain cases.”

Junior Criminal Justice major Michelle Gonzales, who was involved with planning the event, expressed a moment that stood out at her during Days of Dialogue.

“I found it very powerful when the officer at our event stated that he too gets stereotyped the moment people see him because of the uniform that he wears. He continued by stating that many people think that he’s a ‘bad cop’ too because of his uniform and because of their experience with one cop. This response shows that police officers are humans just like you and I. Some make bad choices, but most wear their uniform proudly and believe and honor their oath.”

Sophomore Criminal Justice major Theo Mok agrees with Gonzales.

“Events like this help normal citizens understand that the police we see portrayed by media is overly emphasized and their flaws are magnified in order to fit ratings and create support,” Mok said. “It is important that the community’s faith in their local law enforcement agency is strengthened having understood that they can create a bond with their local department if they choose to. The officers I communicated with through events and through field work have all been living examples that in our nation, the tensions that are created between communities and law enforcement are often made worse by mass media because the general public can believe anything that is shown on a video.”

Mok warns against the temptation of believing in extreme versions of situations.

“These are examples of extremely polarized magnification of the problems between law enforcement and communities,” Mok said. “This is not to say that there are little to no flaws within law enforcement agencies around the nation, as they are all led by different individual and, thus, there is a greater likelihood of corruption and misguided actions that go unaccounted for. However, because the Days of Dialogue program is mostly based in Los Angeles County, it serves to strengthen a bond and create understanding between agencies and communities, especially in our time where community-based justice and policing methods are hitting the forefront of the criminal justice system.”

For upcoming events and for more information, Gonzales recommended that students look into Criminal Justice classes available to both Criminal Justice majors and non-majors.

“It’s a great to get involved at school and in your community,” Gonzales said.

For more information on the INVLA, visit their website: http://invla.org/.

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