10 Long Beach Youth Explain Why They’re Afraid Of Police

Aug. 22, 2014 / By

By VoiceWaves Youth Reporters

[Ed. Note] In the days after unarmed black teenager Mike Brown was shot at least six times and killed by police in Ferguson, Miss., thousands of people across the country rallied the streets questioning the militarization of police and the racial harassment of young black and brown people of color in America. While conversations around law enforcement practices have begun to change, one thing has stayed constant: fear. Guns, racial profiling and power—all were cited as reasons why Long Beach youth say they fear the police. VoiceWaves compiled their responses to the Ferguson crisis below.

The situation in Ferguson is a reason to be scared. The chaos teaches us that having a police badge is equivalent to having a license to kill, a permit to terrorize, and the ability to break the Constitution. As an African American male, I’ve always been mindful of the image I project. It was lethal for Rodney King, John Crawford, and Trayvon Martin to be targeted by the police. After watching the events unfold in Missouri, I’m completely terrified. I’m a decent upstanding citizen with no reason to be paranoid, but then again there’s no reason Ferguson should be held captive in a police state. –Thomas Lick, 25

I don’t feel comfortable around police. To me, the idea that we let a bunch of people carry guns and tell us what do is questionable at best, because how do we know who these people really are and what they really believe? The fact that an officer can give you a ticket or arrest you because they were having a bad day, and get away with it, doesn’t make sense to me. Still, it happens all the time because no one can question the police for fear of being taken to jail. I think the police are given too much power. They like to bring their nicest cops out when an event is happening and they want to speak to the community, but those aren’t the people you usually see on the streets. That being said, I would still call the police in an emergency situation because what else is there to do? I am still always questioning whether or not they are actually going to do what they are supposed to do. –Chelcee Bunkley, 23

I am deeply saddened to hear about the death of the 18-year-old Missouri teen, Michael Brown, as well as all other victims of police brutality, whether they were covered in media or remained nameless. Although I am a law-abiding citizen, I still feel uncomfortable around law enforcement. I feel uncomfortable around anyone who is armed with a deadly weapon, whether or not they are mandated to carry it for their occupation. When I hear about an incident of police brutality or death by a police shooting, I believe that other actions could have been made without using violence or to spare a person’s life. –Mariah Smith, 19

Growing up, police are often depicted as violators when it comes their relationship with the community. Though I’ve had the opportunity to speak to police officers and people whose lives are on the line when defending the city, the tension they create often overshadows the reality that they are trying to protect me. It doesn’t help that often citizens of color are often targeted, harassed or attacked with no provocation towards the police. With the recent news coming from Ferguson and the events from the Zimmerman trial still on my mind, it is clear that we still live in a country that targets youth of color. All this only confirms my beliefs that as a young man of color, I will always carry a bull’s-eye on my back. –Oscar Bautista, 22

It makes me wonder if police really do have our backs. I know police are supposed to be there to protect us and keep us safe, but I’ve never actually had that feeling before. I always felt somewhat scared whenever a police passed by, whether it be at my house or next to my dad’s car. Not because they’ve ever done anything bad to me, but because I know that they have an authoritative power over the community. –Alma Rodriguez, 17

My dad has always told me that I shouldn’t fear law enforcement because they are around to help the residents in the community. Before, I didn’t question my dad, and I didn’t worry about the presence of law enforcement. It wasn’t until I got my license that I started to doubt law enforcement. I would drive to school, and I’d see police officers making illegal U-turns, driving dangerously over the speed limit, and using their sirens only to run a red light. Now, I worry every time an officer runs my plates. Even though I haven’t done anything wrong, I get scared. Whenever I see a police officer, I cringe. I’m paranoid that I’m doing something wrong. Even though my experience is minor compared to the situation in Ferguson, I feel that it’s hard to not be afraid of law enforcement. –Karen Marin, 17

As a journalist, social activist, and minority, I have always questioned the integrity of law enforcement. Prior to the civil unrest in Ferguson, I would read about police murders in the news. The stories would only confirm my weariness of law enforcement. Having a family with brown skin has given me firsthand insight as to what it means to be racially profiled. The history of law enforcement frivolously exerting their authority has imposed a strain on the communities they serve. Who watches the watchman as we continue to witness countless examples of hypocritical injustices? If we cannot trust law enforcement to protect and serve, what other options does the community have? —Alexa Ramirez, 19

The police have taken unnecessarily radical measures to respond to the Ferguson protestors. The events in Ferguson have altered my view on law enforcement– I do not feel safe around law enforcement because the situation in Ferguson has convinced me that police are willing to take radical measures to enforce the law. When that happens, the right of civilians to a safe environment is wavered. –Kim Agbayani, 16

Michael Brown’s story in Ferguson truly broke my heart. He didn’t have the chance to defend himself or explain his situation; he was simply a suspect who was shot to death. It really did make me think about our justice system and how we’re still being racially profiled in the 21st century. I thought having a black president would release some tension. Brown’s story is an example of something that may be happening more often than we think. I don’t feel safe because if you’re at the wrong place at the wrong time, you can be automatically treated as a criminal. There are so many YouTube videos where law enforcement officers are shown abusing their power and even treating women of color like animals. It’s sickening. Law enforcement spreading injustice to those who haven’t been proven guilty– it just doesn’t make sense. –Jessica Salgado, 21

When it comes down to law enforcement, I have always had mixed feelings. On one side I feel they keep communities safe, but on the other side I have personally witnessed police discrimination. I feel communities would feel much safer if we knew all officers had cameras on their vests. The community’s trust with police would increase and would make criminals think twice of reacting negatively towards officers since officers would have evidence in court of justifying actions on actual threats and also be held accountable for negative actions towards community members. –Adalhi Montes, 23

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VoiceWaves is a Long Beach youth-led journalism and media-training project. The youth, ages 16-24, are learning to report, write, and create digital journalism content. Their reports will raise awareness of community health issues and activate change.