Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Challenge Of Humanizing Our Community-Police Relationships

(Links and photos are temporarily unavailable due to disrupted internet service.)

As a professional I’ve been diligently working to transform the “Dark Side” for close to forty years, dating back to my first visit to the James River Penitentiary just outside of Richmond, Virginia in 1976. This effort has been at the base of my livelihood as well as my life choices and my life style.

So I am no fool and certainly not even a novice when it comes to tackling this most difficult of human attributes; the Dark Side. I know my business so to speak. With many years of clinical training and supervision, skill development and accrued expertise in the field of psychology, I trust my ability to be astute, properly wary and inordinately skillful in tiptoeing through the tulips of evil, especially insofar as the Dark Side goes, operating as a force in human psychology and social/cultural dynamics.
"My Friend,"
Frederick City Police Officer,
Rebecca Carrado

Thus when a woman questioned and challenged me, in a hostile way, and the efforts of New Horizons in presenting our “Kids and Kops In Conversations” programs, it didn’t take me long to determine that an initial “lean in” endeavor might be, at least, worthy of an attempt, yet not necessarily one that would anticipate a positive outcome.

There was a hint of darkness here and conditions were not such that my abilities could make much difference.  She was coming from her place of pain and fear, covered over with outrage. The best I might be able to do was stay out of my own shadowy sides.

I was not surprised, therefore, when my two attempts at some kind of meaningful dialogue with the woman netted me a serious absence of camaraderie.  Still, as I had learned long ago from one of my mentors, Ken Windes, the game of life is best played from a win/learn position, Plan B, if Plan A, win-win, does not immediately arise out of our undertakings.

Ken was himself an ex-convict who, once rehabilitated went on to become a highly credentialed professional in my psychotherapy association, the International Transactional Analysis Association, So it was that after a bit of an internal realignment, following my encounters with the woman, I sat back and considered what the experience had brought me in terms of lessons to be learned.

The main lesson to date is that what New Horizons is doing through its Coffee House Conversations On Race Relations of which the Kids and Kops In Conversations initiative is a subset is fraught with challenges.

The item that originally drew the woman’s attention to me was a comment I made during the discussion period following a “Trip To The (Mexican) Border” Power Point presentation and commentary, graciously designed by Gwen… , a Quaker woman from Ohio. Gwen had gently and generously reported on her experience of visiting the Arizona border with the intention of discovering for herself, first hand, what the immigration situation down there would show her.

With “Kids and Kops In Conversation” being of immediate concern and involvement for me I chanced to share that we were, thankfully making “inroads” in building bridges between some of our local youth and police officers through our project. Through this effort I am developing hope for improvement in this area of concern.


How dare I suggest such a reprehensible state of affairs for our youth! 

Police can “only” be the enemy was the gist of her belligerent admonishment to me!

Of course, there is significant merit in the attitude of this woman, at least to some degree.  And, the presentation we had just viewed in the “Trip To The Border” report had made that painfully clear, depicting one more aspect of the Dark Side of our current national shame regarding police and community relations; dramatically, painfully and horrifically. But the fact that 34,000 prison beds are designated to be filled by illegal immigrants per year is only one side of the current American policing situation!

Another side is that there are increasing numbers of police officers throughout our country who are putting the development of renewed trust and safety, where police are concerned, as a priority for communities. At least, my deductive reasoning tells me this must be so. Meeting and getting to know three such officers in the local Frederick County, Maryland community has shown me this through New Horizons Coffee House Conversations on Race Relations, built upon almost endless storytelling programs and group discussions.

As a result of these I am reminded that “An enemy is someone whose story you do not know.”

As for myself, personally, I know myself to be an exemplary judge of character, especially about where and how the Dark Side is in motion and where and how it is not. I see that there is challenge here, without doubt.

For every encouraging exchange I have had with these local police officers, modeling the kinds of attitudes and behaviors that have the potential to build trust, I have, personally, encountered and heard of hundreds more that generate fear and alarm in me as well as in other citizens.

There are no easy answers to the troubling community-police relations we are presently experiencing. But there is, also, a movement gaining force in this country that wants us to move beyond this. As a citizen I must do my part to support its success.

Listen to my story (on The Possible Society In Motion Radio Show) on "Building Exceptional Community-Police Relationships" and let me know how you view the situation.

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