By Christopher T. Matthews
An interactive youth forum, with Toledo Police Officers, was held on Saturday, March 19, 2016 hosted by The Toledo Chapter of Jack and Jill of America Inc., in downtown Toledo. The Forum was designed for two different groups of youths from five to eight and nine to 13. The purpose was to establish interaction between the youth and the police, and guidelines for showing respect for each other.
Arnyka Harris, chairperson of the Legislative Committee and member of Jack and Jill, explained that the forum was a product of all of the various police brutality incidents that have taken place nationwide over the last few years.
Ms. Harris also emphasized the imperativeness of getting out in front of the situation by having a forum with the youth and local officers. The youth are seeing what is going on and the Jack and Jill of America, Inc. does not want the youth to have a generalized view of the brutality incidences. “There are some bad officers, just as there are some bad people,” she said
Kelli Winston President of the Toledo Chapter of Jack and Jill of America Inc., stated, “We focus on various topics and issues but, we also focus on the advocacy of legislative issues. And, as you know there have been a lot of issues that have taken place with African American youth and the police. And, as an organization we felt that it was essential that we conduct a forum for our youth, to facilitate an open dialogue with the youth and the police about the relationship between the two.”
Sgt. Anita Madison of the Toledo Police Department shared that, in this time of magnified situations, that have involved the police and the African American community, the African American Police League has decided to assist by providing officers from the TPD to interact with the community in respect to police community relations.
Sgt. Madison continued by stating that, to say that one of the main things that they would like to focus on is building a positive relationship between the community and law enforcement. As well as, build awareness amongst each other. that is to educate each other so that the community can understand law enforcement and law enforcement can understand the community.
Nabia Dumas, 17, and a participant in the youth forum, said, “I believe this program will help in this city, in respect to what has been going on across the nation with African American youths and law enforcement.” She continued to say that, she feels this forum and others, like this, will have a great impact. And furthermore, foster the communication that is needed to help the youth as well as law enforcement to get a better understanding of each other and not see each other as enemies.