In 2008 I was teaching at Leadership Public Schools – Richmond when I told my students that I invited a police officer to visit our classroom. The first reaction I heard was “I don’t like cops.”
A few days later, the officer came and spent 45 minutes addressing a group of skeptical high school juniors and answering the questions they had prepared (I heard Richmond can’t afford enough police- is that true? Why do you show up late when someone calls? Have you ever shot anyone? Do you get scared?). That day, I don’t know if he changed anyone’s mind about cops, but he succeeded in connecting with the students by answering their blunt questions, sharing his personal story, and showing a more human side to law enforcement.
Today I am reminded of the tension in that classroom 6 years ago, and how much further we have to go- both systemically and individually- to rebuild trust in our communities. We must not pass off the tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri as an isolated incident.