Senior strives to improve police-student relations

Officer Damico (left) and Officer Phillips (right) attended the forum to answer students' questions about law enforcement.

Officer Damico (left) and Officer Phillips (right) attended the forum to answer students’ questions about law enforcement. “I thought it was interesting how different the police officers’ views were on a lot of topics, like especially the Second Amendment, how it should be used and their differing views on the enforcement of laws regarding drug use,” Tuck Rodi said.

Last Tuesday, senior Tuck Rodi held a forum in order to start a conversation between Decatur teens and local law enforcement. 

Personal experience and recent negative press coverage pertaining to police officers inspired Rodi to organize the event for his senior project.

Despite doing nothing wrong, Rodi was pulled over and searched by a police officer when skateboarding home earlier this year.

“I just remember being really nervous about [being searched],” he said. “I thought it’d be good for a conversation to occur between cops and the youth just to make sure that we can have a better relationship than what we see on TV.”

After the experience, he decided that there needed to be a place for teenagers and police officers to have an open conversation their public relationship.

Officers Damico and Phillips attended the meeting along with nearly 20 Decatur students. Many questions revolved around their opinion on the Second Amendment and low level drug users.

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“Stories of young African American males being killed is obviously something that needs to be, if not politicized at least publicized and just thinking along those lines, I thought it’d be good for a conversation to occur between cops and the youth . . .” Rodi said.

“The most surprising thing is Officer Phillips thinks he doesn’t need a gun at all, like he could just handle himself with just his communication,” Rodi said.

At the end of the meeting, Rodi handed each of the students a survey asking them to rank their relationship with police officers on a scale of 1-5. Rodi says that most people put their relationship at 3 before the forum.

“Afterwards, the average was around four or five, meaning that they really felt that the forum helped them feel a lot better about their relationship with law enforcement, especially on the local level,” Rodi said. 

Photos courtesy of Elliott Williams