“Like how they did to that man at the corner store,” the young girl says in the video. “Where they like, choked him. [And he was] saying that he can’t breathe and stuff. That’s how I think about it.”
“It’s just sad because the guy didn’t even do anything,” another girl says as she starts to cry. “But the fact that the white police officers hurt him for doing nothing—like that could happen to anybody, any day, any minute. That’s what gets me scared. I’m just scared that that’s me one day. I don’t want to think about it but it happens.”
The girls’ words and emotions reverberated from the screen, and hung over the packed room of cops, city officials and residents gathered for the weekly Compstat data-sharing meeting at police headquarters.
The meeting featured not just crime stats, but videos produced with New Haven kids who participate in Police Athletic League (PAL) camp.
The video demonstrated the fear and distrust that New Haven police officers encounter each day from even the city’s youngest residents. The department, in partnership with a not-for-profit organization called LiveKind, is hoping a series of videos like the ones watched at this past Thursday’s meeting will open up a dialogue between cops and kids that will change perceptions on both sides of the badge.
The videos, which are a part of LiveKind’s Cops & Kids program, feature young people who participated in the PAL summer camp this year and NHPD school resource officers like Officer Nancy Jordan (pictured at right in the photo). Jordan, who grew up in Newhallville, said she understands why some kids feel a sense of distrust.
In one of the videos, she recalled that she didn’t grow up with a positive opinion of police officers because the cops often “talked down” to children in her neighborhood. She said she became a cop because it was an opportunity to have a secure career, and also a way to give back to her community.
Dan Zimmerman (pictured at right in the above photo), co-founder of LiveKind, said the goal of the organization “is to improve how we listen, break down the walls, throw away bias. Truly listen and connect. Engage in honest dialogue to reduce violence anxiety even suicide. LiveKind believes changing minds changes behaviors. No one faces a more faces a more polarizing dialogue with his or her community than law enforcement. LiveKind offers a program to generate authentic two-way conversations that can build relationships and save lives.”
Zimmerman said the video program follows the original model LiveKind has used in it anti-bullying initiatives, but “the big difference is that the conversations are about the tough stuff cops and kids have to deal with. All of the videos can be used a conversation starters in the LiveKind circle of conversation.”
Sgt. Al McFadden, NHPD juvenile services coordinator and the city’s PAL executive director, said that the plan is to use the program in schools to facilitate dialogue between cops and kids. He called the effort an opportunity to for both groups to see that they each have similar concerns about each other. “The videos are very powerful,” he said. “They’re worth seeing.”
Camp participant Rigby Conyers, who appeared in the videos and in person at the Compstat meeting, said in one of the videos that he understands that cops are just trying to do their jobs and have similar fears to anyone else’s.
“Cops are just people in uniform that live and protect,” said Rigby (pictured second from the left in the photo). “They can still be harmed and hurt. They still have families and all this other stuff so I would have to take all that into consideration if I go into a dangerous neighborhood. I’m pretty sure that cops would be terrified if they have to go into a dangerous neighborhood. But I don’t support cops just going around hurting people. I don’t support people getting mad at some other cops and going over and trying to hurt other cops. I think everybody, when they walk through the streets, they all walk with the same fear inside their head. like ‘Oh, maybe this is going to happen, maybe that’s going to happen,’ and they’re all scared that they’re going to get hurt. “
Mayor Toni Harp, who attended the Compstat screening, praised the efforts to put the program together.
“It is very hard to talk about feelings,” she said. “It it one of the toughest things we can do. It’s hard for adults to do it. And I think if each and every one of us thinks back to the way that we felt and the way that we talked about it, as adults, we’d be ashamed of it. Because often times we scurry around the issues and really don’t even as adults have the tools to talk about how we feel and how important it is to the way in which we act and operate in our lives. So the fact that you’ve given to New Haven the opportunity for our young people to be articulate in discussing how they feel is a real gift and it’s a gift I believe will last a lifetime and make a difference in our community.”
By The Book
New patrol officers will have something extra in their toolbox when they hit the streets, thanks to another medium unveiled at the Compstat meeting.
It’s not a new weapon or a body camera, but an old-school “beat book” of police district maps of New Haven and stories about the heroic exploits of their fellow officers.
When Capt. Anthony Duff (pictured), who is in charge of the patrol division, was a rookie cop walking a beat in Kimberly Square back in 1996, he had a book of police district maps that helped him get to know the community better. He kept it for many years and referred to it often even after he was given a patrol car. Now he wants a new generation of cops to have a similar tool.
Realizing that the city’s police ranks are being filled with a number of new officers who are not only new to policing, but also new to New Haven, Duff thought it was time to revive the beat book with a twist. In addition to all the maps, the book is filled with stories about cops published the New Haven Independent.
“Many of the stories are about new officers,” he said. “The ‘Cop of The Week’ series showcase the background of these officers, and some of the circumstances that they will encounter while they’re walk their beat. It really showcases what community policing is about.”