Teens and Officers Talk Candidly Bridge Gap

Posted by BRIDGES Web Team on Jul 15, 2015

Memphis – WREG) — Memphis officers and hundreds of young people put it all on the table hoping to end youth violence and prevent police brutality.

“I seen what happened to Mike Brown and people like that, and I don’t want that to be me. I don’t want that to be nobody that I know,” Christopher said.

The 11th-grader grew up fearing the men and women wearing police badges.

“That fear still instills within me, and I just can’t — I just been trying to learn how to cope with it,” Christopher explained.

Christopher’s family and neighborhood taught him police officers discriminate and abuse their power.

However, a workshop on Wednesday was geared at changing the negative perception many young people had about the police.

“We’re trying to build a bridge between the youth and police officers,” Clayton Turner, an officer with the Memphis Police Department, said.

Hundreds of teens and police officers put assumptions aside and got real. “Mean, love to fight, ratchet—” Some laughed as organizers read the words, but that out-of-control behavior was how some officers said they looked at youth in Memphis.

“We tell them the dangers of what they’re doing. We tell them that one day — hopefully it doesn’t happen — but one day somebody is going to be prepared for an attack like that,” Turner said.

The youth was also worried about so-called attacks like one recorded at a pool party in Texas and the debate about officers using excessive force.

“The officer was a little bit like he was over the top,” Turner said after teens watched the graphic video. Officers used the exercise as a chance to mention how both sides can act differently.

“When an officer tells you to leave, you leave,” Turner explained. “There’s no discussion.”

The Wednesday discussion seemed to change the way both police officers and youth thought about one another. The workshop was possibly the beginning to bridging the gap of a better relationship.

“They want to be heard, and we heard them loud and clear,” Turner said. “My perception has changed in a very, very big way,” Christopher explained.

The workshop was a part of a week long program with BRIDGES.