The D.C. police youth summit, held at Eastern High school in northeast D.C., was put together to give students a voice in bridging the gap between students and law enforcement.
During his opening remarks, D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee said the goal of the summit was to activate young people to action.
“We’re having these conversations about youth but what I see missing oftentimes are the youth — the voice of the youth.”
Contee also acknowledged that sometimes students aren’t allowed the platform to share their views.
“In some spaces and places, our young people have been sidelined and silenced and your voices are not being heard,” Contee said. “I think you would agree with me that if we’re going to be talking about you, you should be part of the conversation.”
Students broke out into groups that were mostly free of adults and spoke about changes they would like to see when it comes to public safety and law enforcement.
Following the group sessions, students shared their views during a presentation.
Jordan Williams, a high school student, said officers need to care more when they are in the community.
Williams used an example of one person who was in a fight with multiple people saying “it felt like the members of the community and people that were in the area cared more than the police did.”
“I personally feel like cops need more training. I don’t want a police officer who’s uneducated and who doesn’t know what they’re doing out on the streets — that’s how people get hurt, it’s kind of dangerous,” a student from Washington Latin said.
Trayvon Alfred, also a high school student, said he previously had a hatred toward cops but he said that “respect goes a long way” when it comes to dealing with police officers.
“If you were to approach me right now and I’m just being disrespectful, it’ll give you a reason to want to lock me up, but if I’m complying and I’m being respectful, it would give you less of a reason to do something to me or give me harm,” Alfred said.
Things got heated when a group of students started protesting, saying police officers do not belong in schools and that their presence causes interruptions.
Contee responded to the protesters saying he respects their opinions but that other students wanted to share their perspectives and it was important to do that in a productive way.
“I want to hear from all the voices of kids of D.C. public high schools. I appreciate these four young people or five young people that have their perspective — that’s certainly important but there’s a lot of work to be done and the only way that we get there is making sure that we communicate together,” Contee said.