Clarion, Pa.- Clarion’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter held its second annual police brutality discussion on Sept. 24 in Gemmell 252. Around 50 students came to voice their opinions on the issue.
Clarion’s NAACP Chapter President and senior political science and criminal justice major Torron Mollett said he wanted to have this event to educate students on the issue and to “find a way to solve this problem.”
“I hope that they can educate others, so that we can all be one and move forward to see a better America than what it is today,” Mollett said.
Chief Jason Hendershot, director of Public Safety, was present to listen to students and to share his perspective. Pittsburgh native Leon Ford also made an appearance to talk about his experiences.
Before the discussion, three brutality example videos were shown. Two were of Rodney King and Eric Garner, and the third took place at a pool party in Texas in summer 2015.
Mollett opened the floor for discussion, where students shared positive and negative experiences with the police—some were local examples while others occurred elsewhere.
Chief Hendershot also answered questions as they arose including whom to contact in cases of police brutality. Individuals can file a complaint through a police department’s internal affairs division. He later added that at a smaller department, like the Clarion campus, complaints go to the director who either assigns the case to a supervisor to investigate or calls an outside entity.
The discussion group brainstormed solutions, which included offering mental health/anger management programs for officers, making changes in training, screening officers for conditions such as alcoholism or mental health issues and continuously monitoring officers.
Ford suggested people put a lot of pressure on the officers when they should also understand the systems in place. “It’s very complex and a system we have to fight on many levels,” said Ford.
He also suggested students should inform themselves and join organizations to have a voice.
The discussion received a positive reaction from its participants.
Senior mid-level math major Danielle Jackson said, “Tonight was very informative and motivational. It was a nice way for not only minorities, but all Clarion students to voice their opinions…I think there were some issues raised that opened the eyes of students of all colors and all races.” As a result of the discussion, Jackson plans to get more involved in minority and campus-wide organizations.
Senior strategic communication major Jared Davis added, “I feel like it was very positive and encouraging to see students show up and want to voice this issue…progress wasn’t made, but the talk has stirred.” Davis plans to educate himself “on the system…and to know my rights.”
Senior journalism major and NAACP Community Service Chair Joshlyn Lawhorn said she felt the event was successful. “This wouldn’t have been a discussion without the participation.” Lawhorn plans to try to foster change.
Mollett said, “I think it was absolutely great. For this being so successful, I actually want a part two for this semester.” He added the event will take place in November, possibly in the Gemmell MPR.