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On Thursday, February 5th, Youth Radio was invited to a roundtable discussion with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The “Building Community Trust” roundtable brought local leaders, law enforcement, and nearly sixty representatives from community organizations to discuss the growing divide between communities and law enforcement, and how we can come together to build trust and safety in our communities.
U.S. Attorney General Holder, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf led the discussion with opening remarks. Congresswoman Lee spoke about Bay Area youth being today’s driving force for change, while Mayor Schaff acknowledged the trust deficit between the community and law enforcement, and said that “no matter how many improvements we have made recently, we have got to do more to earn back that trust of the very people we were put here to serve.”
U.S. Attorney General Holder briefed guests on his tour of U.S. cities, including Atlanta, Cleveland, Memphis, Chicago, Philadelphia, and his last stop, Oakland. He stressed the importance of ongoing conversations, and that “we cannot squander this opportunity to have the kind of dialogue needed to begin the kind of change we need in this nation.”
Opening remarks were followed by much discussion about the urgency for law enforcement reform, and how at this very important time, there’s still a long way to go to fix the current relationship between the community and police. Many representatives from community groups expressed frustration around the lack of progress in alleviating this issue. Participants brought up issues such as the lack of requirement for police to undergo sensitivity trainings, and the need for truancy centers for Oakland’s youth.
A Berkeley High School student also shared her perspective, and brought up the fact that the lack of trust in law enforcement is more about systemic racism, and that progress means addressing this larger issue.
This was an important initial dialogue with many stakeholders in addressing this issues, but there was clear frustration about the lack of resources and leadership needed to truly address this community-police divide. Youth Radio was proud to be a part of this important conversation, and looks forward to partnering with its fellow community groups to continue the dialogue and work toward real change in our community.