THE LEADER IN YOU—Youth from the NOBLE Leadership Conference with honorary chairperson Derrell Lawrence. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
Despite nationwide depictions of the strained relationship between the Black community and law enforcement, teenagers at the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives Youth Leadership Conference in Pittsburgh this week had high praise for police officers.
In an address to his peers at a luncheon on Aug. 5, NOBLE Youth Ambassador Hamilton Murry from Arkansas used the Trayvon Martin tragedy in Florida, to advocate for more respect for law enforcement officials.
“There are some things being done in the South (in response to the Trayvon Martin) situation that I don’t agree with. In Arkansas there are some police officers being harassed, some patrol cars being vandalized,” Murry said. “I believe that we should attempt to make a change in our community and raise awareness to prove that the stereotypes we are given are false.”
The four day conference hosted in Pittsburgh as part of NOBLE’s 37th Annual National Training Conference and Exhibition, brought together youth ages 13 to 18 from around the country. Whether from Pittsburgh, Florida, or even New York, where Black teens are disproportionately stopped and frisked by police officers, the teens had overwhelmingly positive views of law enforcement in their cities.
“The police are doing a good job,” said Bongani Magalla. “I live in New York and the NYPD are really good.”
“Law enforcement is important with how high crime is in this city and you have all these kids joining gangs,” said Arthur Jetter from Pittsburgh.
However, while in the minority, there were a handful of conference participants who felt police officers didn’t care about those living in the African-American community.
“I think the police can do a better job. We can’t even depend on them,” said 18-year-old Tylyan Terry from Pittsburgh. “Where I used to live (Lincoln), you could call them and it took them a half hour to get there. That’s why people take things into their own hands.”
The NOBLE Youth Conference was originally designed for children of law enforcement executives attending the conference. However, it was expanded to included youth in the community in an effort to facilitate conversations on social issues such as racial profiling, search and seizure, and underage drinking and driving.
“They see us as human; they see us out of our uniform. We’re letting them know that we care about their futures,” said Rhonda Glover, chair of the NOBLE Youth Program. “We really haven’t seen any outward disdain for law enforcement. In the event that these kids do have an encounter with a police officer, hopefully because of this, it will be positive.”