WSSU Students Discuss Trust with Law Enforcement

WSSU Students Discuss Trust with Law Enforcement
October 01
00:00 2015

A small-group discussion includes East Ward City Councilman Derwin Montgomery, far left. (photo submitted)

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The Winston-Salem Human Relations Commission facilitated its latest “collegiate trust talk” on Tuesday, Sept. 22 on the campus of Winston-Salem State University, allowing students, campus police and members of the Winston-Salem Police Department to exchange views about topics ranging from sexual assaults and campus safety, to stereotypes and race relations.

About 100 WSSU students attended. Police Chief Patricia Norris, Winston-Salem Police Capt. Natoshia James, Senior Assistant District Attorney Nicole Duprey, and Winston-Salem Human Relations Director Wanda Allen-Abraha welcomed them with an explanation about its purpose.

“This is not a bashing or attack session.” Allen-Abraha said. “This is a safe place to discuss real issues in a very frank, yet respectful manner.”

Many students discussed specific incidents in their hometowns and on campus that left lasting impressions on them.

One female student mentioned that she felt that the Black Lives Matter movement had a significant impact on many of her friends and family members. She added that she felt very concerned for her younger African-American brother, should he ever have an occasion to interact with law enforcement. Although she said her younger brother is no troublemaker, she fears that there could be violent consequences should he have any interaction with police officers as he grows older.

Another female student stated that she and her boyfriend were pulled over for “probable cause” and was searched, and they never fully understood the officer’s reason.

James advised the student that every police agency has some form of citizen complaint process and said the student and her friend should have reported the incident. Students acknowledged that many young people do not know how to report police concerns and complaints.

Other students said they believe that race relations are good on the WSSU campus. Officers on the campus police force are diverse in terms of gender and race, but most students did not feel race is a factor when campus police issue citations. However, many suggested that improved communications in positive, non-confrontational settings would be very beneficial.

Officers noted that students have to understand that the campus police are responsible for enforcing laws and campus regulations. City Council Member Derwin Montgomery, a graduate of WSSU, advised that the city of Winston-Salem is constantly training officers in order to ensure that they follow city procedures when dealing with the public during traffic stops.

Norris thanked Jaylon Herbin, the Political Action Committee chairperson at WSSU, for helping organize the trust talk. Allen-Abraha encouraged students and officers to continue their discussions in order build trust. She also stated that Human Relations would continue to work with WSSU to continue holding talks across the campus.



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