Last Monday, over 100 Wittenberg students, faculty, staff, and community members came together under the leadership of Julius Bailey, professor of philosophy, to discuss recent highly publicized events of racial profiling and police brutality.
The town hall style meeting called “The Tape Comes Off: Race, Rights, and Law Enforcement” began with comments from lawyers Michael Wright and Richard Schulte, representing the Crawford family after the death of John Crawford III, who was shot to death by police in a Beavercreek Wal-Mart in early August for carrying an unloaded BB Gun through the store.
Wright announced that there will be a grand jury convened on Sept. 22 to determine whether or not the officers in the shooting will be indicted. Wright and Schulte also said the highly requested store security video that has yet to be publicly released.
“The video tells you all you need to know,” said Wright. “The video shows the polar opposite of what the perception is…he [Crawford] was standing in one place for five minutes and then he was on he floor.”
Among those in attendance was University President Laurie Joyner, who found it encouraging that Wittenberg came out in force to come “face to face with things that have troubled us through our shared history.” Beavercreek’s police force wasn’t the only one being discussed. On Aug. 9, in Ferguson, Mo., Michael Brown, a black unarmed man, was fatally shot by a white police officer. Brown’s shooting has sparked a nationwide debate on racism in the U.S.
At the meeting, Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland, a professor of religion at Wittenberg who also directs the Urban Studies program, took the police in Ferguson Police Department to task for poor leadership.
“Part of police training is on how to relate to the community,” said Copeland. “People on the force need to know if they do something improperly…there need to be some action taken.
“I found it amazing that the elected officials in Furgeson were nowhere to be seen,” Copeland continued. “I don’t think the local officials have done their job.”
Andy Wilson, special prosecutor for Clark County, believes that these problems can be solved through community building.
“Open lines of communication between law enforcement and citizens is necessary,” said Wilson. “These issues are solved on a community level… go ride along with the police department and see what’s really going on.”
Springfield Police Chief Steve Moody extended the invitation to everyone in attendance for a ride along with the Springfield Police Department. He also addressed what people should expect from him.
“I expect my feet to be held to the fire,” said Moody. “To be honest, we are the only social service agency that is open 24/7.”
State police were also in attendance to talk about training and racial profiling.
“Racial profiling has no place in law enforcement,” said Yellow Springs Police Chief Anthony Pettiford, who also spoke of situation training, stating that the last thing a cop wants to do is deploy is service weapon.
“We are constantly teaching our officers to talk our way out of a situation,” said Pettiford. “We want to use our words…not our weapons.”
The program also had a live Twitter feed under the hashtag “WittHipHop,” in which audience members could tweet questions for the panel participants to address during the question and answer section following their presentations.