De’Sean Golden and Tre Lee at United States Attorney’s Office Youth Summit. (Photo by Hamzat Sani)
De’Sean Golden stands outside Friendship Collegiate Academy Public Charter School, the Northeast high school he plans to attend in the fall. “I feel uncomfortable,” the recent middle school graduate told the AFRO. His uneasiness is the result of Metropolitan Police Department officers on the perimeter of the 5th Annual United States Attorney’s Office Youth Summit location.
Before exiting the June 26 event to get some fresh air, Golden viewed a snippet of the video “10 Rules for Dealing with Police,” produced by educational non-profit Flex Your Rights. The fictitious scene captured an African-American college student being pulled over by the police for excessive lane swerving. The student was asked to get out of the vehicle and the officer began a search while the aggravated youth sat on the curb.
Golden, a Ward 7 resident, is no stranger to police interaction and has tips of his own after being pulled over by the police with a group of friends, “I cooled it and put my hands up – I didn’t want to get shot,” he says. “If you don’t control yourself, they will try to violate you.”
Sharing his sentiments, Golden’s friend Tre Lee weighs in: “If police see a Black man, they always try to stop them – they never come to help,” says the 11th grader who also plans to attend Friendship in the fall.
While the conversation of police interaction with young Black men makes the summer day a bit chilling, city officials and law enforcement officers attempted to warm up hundreds of youth inside the school auditorium.
“D.C. is my home. It’s where I was born and raised and where I’m raising my two kids,” says Acting United States Attorney for the District Vincent H. Cohen Jr., who shared a story about a childhood friend who was killed by a peer.
While youth continue to be murdered by one another – perhaps more than by the hands of law enforcement, Cohen believes police are not the enemy: “Young Black men are dying in D.C. and it’s only with the help of the police that we are going to be able to stop it,” he says. “I’m going to take every opportunity to make our city more safe and fair for everyone who lives here.”
Cohen was joined by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine and Capt. Michael Culligan from the Metropolitan Police Department. During the panel discussion, youth learned about the over 100 school officers who act as the first line of communication between themselves and the department.
“We want to look at ourselves as a resource for youth and schools,” says Culligan who cites internship programs, college fairs, seminars, and a youth advisory council as little-known initiatives by the department.
In excitement, several elementary-aged youth begin to question officials on the process of becoming an officer: How old do you have to be, where do you sign up and how long does it takes.
Leaving the session for lunch, Lundyn Ross, a seventh grader at Stuart-Hobson Middle School, said may be hope for her generation and its interaction with the law. “It’s good to hear what they’re trying to do.”