Northeast Ohio High Schoolers Discuss Police Reform

Former East Cleveland Police Chief Ralph Spotts and JFK Sophomore Darryl Wright
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by David C. Barnett

Building a better relationship between police and young people was the subject of a youth forum held at the City Club of Cleveland, Monday afternoon.  Students from across Greater Cleveland put questions to a panel of experts on topics ranging from racial profiling to police reform.

John F. Kennedy Sophomore Darryl Wright questioned retired East Cleveland Police Chief Ralph Spotts about the pervasiveness of racial profiling.  Spotts called it an "unfortunate fact", because a lot of white police recruits he's interviewed have little ---  if any --- personal experience with African Americans.

"And now," said Spotts, "they're coming into an inner city where they have all these preconceived notions or stereotypical thoughts, especially how young black men act.  Or what young black men are doing. And that's a real problem that we're facing all over."

And he notes that some black officers harbor similar stereotypes.  Afterwards, Wright said he'd been the subject of profiling, but was somewhat encouraged by the extra scrutiny the Justice Department's consent decree with the city of Cleveland will bring to to policing.

"There's not going to be a point in time, in my opinion, where every single police officer is perfect, unless we get artificial intelligence and we program them not to do that.  But, I think that things will gradually begin to turn in the opposite direction." 

Ralph Spotts argued that the use of body cameras on officers will bring certain bad police behavior in check, but he also noted that young people don't tend to report profiling incidents.  He suggested that such follow-up is the only way to really correct the issue.

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