Monday, October 26, 2009

Cops and Teens: Can We Talk?

Los Angeles will have a new police chief this week. Chief Bratton is leaving Los Angeles to pursue other opportunities. Tensions between teenagers and cops are a familiar story. Teens are highly critical of police practices, from curfew enforcement to traffic stops and racial profiling. We’ve hosted sit-downs between teens and LAPD and teens and the Sheriff’s Dept. Transcripts from the sessions were published in L.A. Youth and posted on our website.

The conversations don’t magically bridge the gap between our teen writers and readers but we like to think they at least humanize the participants on both sides. Several years ago L.A. Youth writer Richard Kwon interviewed then-Police Chief Bernard Parks. The conversation turned from teens’ driving habits to a personal tragedy that the chief had experienced. His 20-year-old granddaughter, Lori, had been the victim of a homicide. Richard reflected on their discourse:

I thought police officers pretended to be tough guys, but he was really honest with his answers. He’s still in pain about her death and haunted by it. His face showed signs of weariness but he was still smiling in the end. And so was I.

We tried contacting Chief Bratton but he never responded to our request for an interview. Perhaps the next chief will reach out to teens and dialogue with us.

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