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Friday, April 19, 2024

Students, community members discuss police-community relations

The past year has seen debates and protests about race and policing both nationally and in the Madison community. Students and community members continued this conversation Wednesday at a public symposium on relations between the police and the community.

The symposium, titled “Relations between Community and Police,” was sponsored by the Wisconsin University Union, an independent organization composed of staff and faculty at UW-Madison.

The panelists included Ajani Carr and Alix Shabaaz, local community organizers for Freedom Inc.; Michael Davis, an M.A. student in the Department of African American Studies and doctoral student in the School of Education and retired Madison Police Chief David C. Cooper.

The symposium not only addressed questions pertaining to the community and police, but also discussed possible solutions. One of the propositions at the symposium was a community-controlled board that would address issues with police officers in their district as problems arise.

“What we need to do is step up and say, ‘this is our community, this is how this is going to go.’ Period,” Carr said.

The Madison Police Department has had to address concerns recently after incidents between the police and black community members made national media. In 2015, 20-year-old Tony Robinson was shot and killed by an MPD officer, and in June of this year, video of 18-year-old Genele Laird being arrested outside East Towne Mall went viral.

Shabaaz expressed frustration over the idea that these interactions needed to be filmed or recorded to even be discussed.

“Not only are we dying, but we have to figure out how to record you before or during something’s happening,” Shabaaz said.

Cooper also commented on Laird’s arrest, saying that he wished the department denounced the actions used by the officers.

“I expect the police chief and the police department to stand up and say, ‘I see this and we’re not going to do that anymore,’” Cooper said.

When audience members made some proposals regarding police reform, Shabaaz discussed the action black communities should take.

“I do think we should be pushing for revolutionary demands, because the only way we totally end it is if we totally shift power,” Shabaaz said.

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