If change begins with a conversation, Dallas ISD police are hoping talking with students will lead to a new way of young people thinking about police.
The district's police department kicked off the first in a series of discussions on Friday across the district about policing.
With the majority of criminal justice students at Carter High School disinterested in becoming police officers, DISD Assistant Police Chief Jason Rodriguez says it’s his department’s job to change that and shape new attitudes toward police.
“Is it necessary to have y'all hand on your gun when y'all walk up to us? It frightens me,” one student asked.
“It’s a safety issue. It’s not that we're walking up, trying to be intimidating,” explained DISD Officer Willie Williams. “And it’s a good habit to have. Because when you get into it with someone that’s not peaceful like you, the first thing they’re gonna do is try to grab your gun.”
Like the rest of the community, the students see police through the eyes of their experiences.
“Who has been in the car when they’ve been stopped on a traffic stop — whether it was a cousin, an aunt or a friend or a parent? How did that make you feel?” Rodriguez asked students.
“Kind of scared,” one student said.
Officers are hoping to show they understand.
“Last week, I was stopped by an officer in the town where I live,” said DISD Assistant Chief Gary Hodges. “You never get over those emotions. I got the same ones.”
Officers showed the student a takedown of a man on ‘Cops’. It brought nervous laughter and an honest reaction
“Why did y'all have to choke him like that?” a student asked.
“That officer does not work for our agency,” Rodriguez said. “It’s for training purposes only.”
Students shared strong opinions and suggestions for better policing
“Most police officers are so quick to assume and don’t want to listen majority of the time,” one student said.
“Think more than just a police officer. Think as if you were that person, and put yourself in that position,” another student suggested.
“Like the policemen when they shot the different people that got killed by them. Why do they shot them so many times?” a student asked.
“These are hard questions. They’re not easy questions, but we want to talk about them,” said Rodriguez. “We have to because we have to collectively make this a better community.”