Suzanne Buchholz, Senior Reporter
Police brutality has become a prominent issue in the United States due to increased cases of violence and coverage of these cases in the media.
An estimated 865 people have been killed in 2016 by police, many of whom were unarmed, mentally ill or people of color, according to thinkprogress.org. About 206 of these people were black.
Riots and protests have broken out across the nation, many of which created more violent acts committed by both protesters and police. Protests in Charlotte, N.C.; Milwaukee, Wis; and Baton Rouge, La. resulted in misconduct and shootings that caused tension between citizens and police officers.
Victoria Miles, president of the Black Student Union for Pierce College Puyallup, said that although these events have caused issues to surface, they’ve always been a problem to be dealt with in the black community.
“In all honesty, the black community has never been on good terms with the police,” Miles said. “There’s a lot of bad blood and although recent events are bringing this to light, state sanctioned violence has been an issue in our community dating back to slavery. More people are becoming aware to police brutality because of video footage, but if one were to look back in history, the creation of police and their purposes concerning involvement in the black community have very rarely been positive.”
Puyallup Police Captain Scott Engle said that this has become a problem and has led to some conflicting attitudes toward police in the Puyallup community.
“I think that it’s certainly an issue that lots of people are very passionate about, and sometimes that passion leads people to be judgmental towards others,” Engle said. “And so certainly we’ve had folks experience that. But for us, at the end of the day, we continue to march on and do the very best we can to serve the community and make a positive contribution and a positive difference.”
.Miles said that these events haven’t changed her current views but have caused stronger reactions to these situations. She said the problem became larger for the community.
“I would say my views have been not been altered but my emotions concerning these events have definitely been intensified,” Miles said. “I found myself to be less at ease, especially around law enforcement. When an entire demographic of people are disproportionately affected by these events, trust is lost. You develop a mentality of, ‘That could have been me.’ You don’t see yourself individually, you recognize yourself to be a part of a group where state sanctioned violence seemingly runs rampant. I found myself becoming increasingly angry because all efforts for change are done in vain.”
In order to improve the relationship between police and citizens, the Puyallup Police Department held an event in which Puyallup citizens could meet with police officers to ask questions and engage in conversations over cups of coffee Oct. 7. This event, Coffee with a Cop, was held at Thr3e Coffee Shop across the street from Puyallup High School and was meant to help the police personally connect with the community.
Engle said this event was created to give citizens an opportunity to interact with police officers in an environment that would make them feel comfortable, and to help them realize that the officers are citizens in the community as well.
“Our crime prevention coordinator kind of came forward and said, ‘Hey, I think this would be a great event where we could make a connection with people and they could just sit down and have a cup of coffee with a police officer,’” Engle said. “Just talk like people do when they sit down and have a cup of coffee when they get together, and hopefully citizens get to see us as regular, everyday citizens like them who happen to have chosen a career where we put our lives on the line every day for the safety of our community.”
The Puyallup Police strive to stay in touch with the community in a variety of ways, Engle said. They run social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, all of which are used to provide progress updates on incidents and send alerts. They also implement block watches and other programs to protect citizens and stay aware of what’s happening in the community.
These measures are intended to keep people, as well as the officers involved with current situations in the city. They also provide people with many ways to contact the police and let their voices and opinions be heard.
“One of the best things we can do as a department is listen to what our community is saying and what they’re concerned about and try to respond to that,” Engle said. “We do that a lot through block watch and a lot of these programs. We make sure that we are staying in step with
where our community is at, and with what our community
needs, and in the concerns of our community.”
The Puyallup PD will continue to update their social media accounts with new information and hold events to stay connected with the community. More information on current and upcoming occurrences can also be found on their official website at puyalluppolice.org.
Miles said being aware of the current situations and knowing the history of police relations is crucial for effectively changing these relationships.
“I would improve the situation by informing more people about the history police have with the community and how it has not altered from its original purpose,” Miles said. “I personally believe protests and letters to be futile acts that only raise awareness but do not bring about much change. Knowledge is definitely power, what people choose to do with it is up to them. There are a lot of improvements that could be made, but most importantly is the act of educating the unaware. You won’t fight for a cause as passionately if you do not fully understand the issues.”
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost