Police Panel Discussion: “The people that I should trust the most, I’m afraid of”


Anisa Jibrell – News Writer

A routine traffic stop can be a nerve-racking experience, even if you happen to be a probation officer for the state of Connecticut judicial branch.

During a panel discussion titled “The Law From Our Eyes: A Conversation with the Police, the Community and You,” Tai Richardson recounted getting pulled over on his way to work by two white officers.

Although Richardson often times finds himself interfacing with a population that harbors feelings of mistrust for law enforcement officials, he said at the end of the day when he peels off his suit and tie he’s just “a black man with a hoodie on,” and that concerns him.

“The people that I should trust the most, I’m afraid of,” said Richardson, “and I work with them.” 

The university’s NAACP chapter, Brotherhood of Scholarships and Excellence (B.R.O.SE), Black Student Union, and the Multicultural Center, organized the panel to examine issues of police brutality, racial profiling, and discuss ways the school community can better understand law enforcement.

The Nov. 9 panel discussion brought several professionals to the Adanti Student Center ballroom. Beyond Richardson, panelists included SCSU’s deputy police chief Philip J. Pessina, along with Lieutenant Richard Randall, Greater New Haven NAACP president Dori Dumas, and Sgt. Renee Dominguez of the New Haven police department. The moderator was Siobhan Carter-David, assistant professor of History.

“All lives matter, all of humanity matters,” said Pessina in response to a student who asked for the panel’s opinions on the Black Lives Matter movement.

If you treat people correctly and if the society, and cities, and court systems understand their population and what they can do—and not politicize it—then I think things can change,” said Pessina.

Pessina stressed the importance of training and education within police departments and ensuring those departments are “reflective of the communities they serve,” and mindful of the cultural differences within those communities.
“Yes, all lives matter—but it’s important to highlight and to have movements that speak directly to the statistics that we’re talking about,” responded Dumas.

According to the NAACP Criminal Justice Fact Sheet, “about 14 million whites and 2.6 million African-Americans report using an illicit drug, yet African-Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of whites.”

African Americans represent 12 percent of the total population of drug users, but 38 percent of those arrested for drug offenses, and 59 percent of those in state prison for a drug offense, according to the fact sheet.

“These are statistics that we’re looking at, working at,” said Dumas. “These are things that are real that are happening in our community.”

Panelists also discussed the importance of cultural competence in policing, a skill that “cannot be taught in an 8-hour crash course,” according to Richardson.

“It has to be ongoing, and it has to involve difficult conversations,” said Richardson.

One objective when choosing officers, said Randall, is to weed out biases that might be “detrimental to the public,” though he admits that people do “slip through the cracks.”

When you look at policing in this country it’s not just one-size-fits-all, so you sort of have to look at it as a quilt,” said Richard. There’s a lot of patches to this quilt and if it’s sewn together very, very well it could be a very, very comforting, very, very warm and very very useful thing. If there are tears in this quilt and we keep tearing at these tears in this quilt, it is useless. It’ll fall apart. We are at that point.”

Photo Credit: Staff Photo

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