An organization called the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition has officially petitioned a city police department to have absolutely no contact with Black citizens.
In Madison, Wisconsin – with a population of about a quarter million people, and seven percent of those being Black – the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition cites statistics stating that, despite the relatively low number of Blacks in the city, the ratio of Blacks to Whites arrested is significantly higher than national averages. As such, the coalition wants the Madison Police Department to have no further interaction with Black people. TheBlack coalition sent their demands in an open letter to Madison Police Chief Michael Koval.
When Brandi Grayson, a spokesperson for the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition, was asked if the demand that police not interact anymore with Black citizens was literal or rhetorical, she made it clear that the Black coalition wasn’t joking.
“…our ultimate goal is not to have any police interaction. When we say no police interaction, we’re referring to the same policing model or police model that’s used and seen in most white neighborhoods. We’re not asking for anything differently or something unheard of. I think the issue here is that in black neighborhoods or people of color neighborhoods, it’s become normalized to have an overflow of police, as if those neighborhoods have the highest crime rates. In reality, those neighborhoods do not have the highest crime rates.”
When the Black coalition spokesperson was asked for clarification, she responded by saying that Blacks are being “over policed.”
“We want the same policing that you experience in your neighborhood. You know, we want policing that is reactive. We want to be able to have opportunity to call you if we need your assistance, versus police being in the neighborhoods ‘patrolling,’ quote unquote. And what ends up happening is you have people harassed, you have people profiled, and that increases the likelihood of arrest.”
Grayson was asked whether or not it would be better to form friendly alliances with the police instead of demanding that they stay away from the Black community.
“Why do we think and why do we find it natural for police to want to engage with us or to have those relationships just with black and brown people? We don’t see police officers or the chief saying how important it is to engage white citizens and white residents. And we know by the numbers that crimes by black and white people are equal across boards, and some studies show that white people use more drugs than we do. But there’s still the disparity in arrests when it comes to drug usage. So what is that about? Where is that coming from? We would say that is coming from the over-presence of police in our neighborhoods.”
The response from Madison Police Chief hinged on defending his department’s treatment of Blacks.
“I have used my office as a bully pulpit in urging the legislature to address issues of racial disparity as a priority. I have spoken out publicly that there is a litany of things that could be done in one legislative session if politicians were truly serious about bringing about fundamental change(s).”
Police Chief Koval then listed off six significant legislative changes that could greatly improve race relations. Koval said he is a Madison resident “for the long haul,” and he’s greatly interested in achieving a diminishing race disparity. However, the chief was adamant that the police would not “diminish” their contact with certain neighborhoods, but actually “increase” contact for the good of the community.
What do you think? Does the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition have a right to request no police contact with Blacks?
[Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images]