In early April, the ACM Chicago Students had the opportunity to visit the Chicago Police Department (CPD) Headquarters. We met various members of the Bridging the Divide program. From what we’ve gathered, Bridging the divide is a platform created amongst police officers and the community’s youth. According to the YMCA Metro of Chicago, “program was developed to help build understanding between youth, law enforcement officials, and other community members. Throughout the project the YMCA and community partners offered opportunities for dialogue through cafés, peace circles, and the exchange of photos and stories.”
Below you’ll see a video of the 10th District Officers participating in Bridging the Divide Peace Circle at Community Christian Alternative (CCA) Academy 1231 S. Pulaski rd. Youth and CPD interacting and working together.
Below is another video of 10th District Officer Michelle Gonzalez vs 24th ward Alderman Michael Scott JR. 10th District Bridging the Divide Obstacle Course was designed to Bridge the gap between Chicago Police Officers and the youth. About 50 youth and 8 10th district officer took part in this successful event.
Bridging the Divide, in theory, seems like a great opportunity to decrease the tension amongst police officers and the community, specifically the community’s black and brown youth. A few ACM Chicago students were hesitant to fully believe that this was a great idea. A few factors play into this, such as police officers still having their guns, and also having peace circles with those guns present.
As part of the program, audio diaries were captured from youth an Chicago police officers about their experiences within the community. You can find it by clicking HERE.
After watching the compelling stories and reflections by youth and law enforcement officers who participated in the program, I realaized that all of the characters made an impact and this opportunity provided a variety of perspective. I found it be quite thought-provoking to gain insight on people’s lives in regards to Chicago policing. It has also been frustrating because people, even learning more about these stories, still do not understand why people of color are frustrated with police. Cicatriz, one of the youth who shared her experience with Chicago Police, told us about racial profiling, and the discouragement the police left behind in reference to higher education. While they were talking to each other abut college, police officers approached them, accused them of being gang-affiliated, made them stand against a wall while they were searched, and left them with belittlement, little faith, and little hope for collegiate opportunities. She stated how they tend to believe what “higher society” believes about them. If police officers tell them that they cannot amount to anything higher and greater, beyond what they have experienced, then they may start to believe that. Police officers play a crucial role in young black and brown lives. At the end of the day, they have the choice to use their authority in whichever way they choose. I understand that both want to reach respectful terms, but that cannot happen until they, both police officers and youth, realize the situations that reality has placed them in.
It was an interesting experience to learn about the YMCA Metro of Chicago, the Bridging the Divide program, then speaking to representatives of Bridging the Divide program at the CPD Headquarters.