Challenging DMC in the State’s Largest City
In 2003, the Philadelphia Working Group was formed to address the problem of DMC at the local level. The Working Group includes members from:
-The School District of Philadelphia – Various Philadelphia Community Organizations
-The Philadelphia Faith-Based Community
With the support of the state DMC subcommittee, Philadelphia became the first of five counties in Pennsylvania to sponsor minority youth/ law enforcement forums which brought officers and minority youth together to talk frankly and openly about the problems on the street and the troubled relationships between the two groups.
By opening a dialogue, the Working Group hoped to reduce the number of volatile interactions between youth and officers on the street, to decrease arrests of minority youth and to diminish the chance of injuries to officers and youth on the street.
The forums provide an opportunity for both youth and officers to be heard and to consider each other’s views without endorsing either side as completely right or wrong. Discussions between the young people and officers who have participated on the panels have often become quite heated. For example, when asked by a youth why police beat kids who run, an officer replied that “that’s the running tax.”
These frank exchanges led to more in-depth discussions about balancing the need for police to investigate crime safely with the desires of young people to live in their community without being harassed.
At the end of each forum, both officers and youth have said that they have developed a new understanding of each other. Of greater importance, both officers and youth have indicated that they might react differently to situations on the street as a result of the forums.
The Working Group used those discussions to develop a series of policy recommendations designed to change the system. One of the primary recommendations was the creation of a training program for officers relating to youth development and culture.
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