WASHINGTON — D.C. middle and high school students discussed their impressions on violence and community policing in the city with lawmakers.
Talayia Richardson, 12, opened the forum Friday by sharing her winning essay in the city’s “Do The Write Thing Challenge.”
The Wheatley Education Campus student said she tries to lead a peaceful life and influence others, even though her family has been torn apart by violence.
“Growing up in Washington, D.C., I’ve witnessed more violence than any child should … My uncle died for no reason. My uncle was stabbed at a party and his murderer was never found,” she read to the roundtable of seven council members and D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine.
“We adults need to listen more to young people,” Racine said.
The conversation turned to the topic of how to better improve the trust between police officers and the community, which garnered a strong response from the students on the panel.
“They also spent a good amount of time as young people of color talking about their interactions with police officers,” said D.C. Council member Charles Allen, D-Ward 6.
“There were a range of experiences from individuals who say they felt safe, to those who felt less safe, or cautious, or uncertain around a police officer,” he said.
“At the end of the day, I know they are doing their job. They have someone to return to,” one girl shared in her essay. “They took time out of their busy schedule to help me with my problem. I respect that.”
Another boy felt differently.
“You’re a little bit cautious about it because you don’t know what they are going to do, if they are going to be friendly, if they’re going to be aggressive,” he said. “It’s just, you don’t really feel safe.”
A few students shared that their impressions of police officers were formed in part by the press coverage of police shootings of black men across the country.
“It just makes me scared because I don’t know if they are going to try to shoot me or not,” one boy said.
Allen said hearing the variety of impressions and the kids’ ideas as to how to improve police-community trust is valuable.
“We need to hear that as well so we understand how we work with officers and MPD leadership to make sure we’re building community trust,” he said. “And so, an officer is viewed as a positive, safe experience. That, in essence, will help move toward stronger community safety.”
Read Talayia Richardson’s full essay below:
Read another essay, by sixth grader Tavon Jones, below: