The Black Student Association invites Texas Wesleyan and the Polytechnic community to join them next Tuesday at a community outreach event at Martin Hall.
The event, “Officer, May I?,” will focus on overcoming division between the police and people of the community. It is free and will run from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. A reception will follow at Lou’s Place.
“The event is geared toward how to become friends again with the police,” BSA Vice President Trezjon Cothran said.
BSA hopes to help cultivate a better relationship between the public and the police, said Dr. Eddy Lynton, the BSA’s sponsor and assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice.
“It’s about the connection between individuals and the people that are supposed to be there to serve and protect them,” Lynton said.
BSA has arranged for a former Fort Worth Police Department officer, current FWPD officer, and a Wesleyan trustee to come and speak to the Wesleyan community, BSA President Josh Rivers said.
“We’re getting three different perspectives: ‘What is being taught to the community?’ from a professor, ‘What should be done?’ from the officer, and ‘What rights do the people actually have?’ from the trustee,” Rivers said.
Dr. Wafeeq Sabir, who has 25 years of experience with the Fort Worth Police Department, will be sharing some of his personal experiences.
“What we’re hoping for is that he’ll provide students, faculty and staff with techniques, tips and tricks that they can use to deescalate situations,” Lynton said.
Lynton believes that Sabir’s presentation will help people relieve some of the tension that occurs in interactions with the police.
“This is a positive event. It’s not a ‘Let’s beat up the police!’ type of event,” Lynton said. “That’s not the intent at all. It’s about how do we fix where we’re at right now? How do we go from where we’re at to a better tomorrow?”
Also participating in the event are Glenn Lewis, a Texas Wesleyan grad and attorney who is on the university’s board of trustees; and FWPD Sgt. Billie Price, who is also a Wesleyan graduate.
BSA hopes to impact as many people as possible with this event, Rivers said.
“Our target audience is basically anyone that can be affected, from Wesleyan students to high school and middle school students and their parents,” Rivers said. “These are the people having to answer the questions of ‘What do I do? How do I come home? How do I feel safe?’ We want to help prepare them for that line of questioning.”
Rivers expects that this event will be set up like a town hall meeting.
“It’ll start off with a 30-minute presentation, which will include our basic rights and scenarios of what to do and what not to do when interacting with the police,” Cothran said.
After the presentation, Cothran said, the event will allow time for a question and answer discussion.
“That’s a time for everyone to just ask questions and receive knowledge respectfully,” Cothran said.
Rivers feels the people need a chance to ask questions in order to better understand the way the police serve them.
“There’s a lot of questions that we want to answer,” Rivers said. “We probably won’t answer them all.”
BSA hopes that everyone will try to attend their community outreach event because it affects a large group of people, Lynton said.
“The situations that are occurring are incredibly tragic,” Lynton said. “Often times, it seems to escalate based on a myriad of events.”
BSA understands that fear on both sides is what often leads to misunderstanding, but this event is supposed to help conquer some of that, Rivers said.
“I’m pretty sure we aren’t going to save the world in one day,” Rivers said, “but this can be an effective stepping stone to make a community.”