On February 5, Iota Phi Theta Fraternity held an open forum discussion with two law enforcement personnel. The forum was done by ex-Newark Detective Rodriguez and Sgt. Sanders who works here at NJIT. The point of this event was to provide an open forum between law enforcement and the student body. Ever since the death of Trayvon Martin, the Black Lives Matter movement has gained momentum and has managed to spark controversy, tearing the country apart.
The presentation was brief and most of the time was spent discussing the misconceptions or feelings towards the police and how this can be assuaged to make our experience at NJIT better. Police officers go through training where they get shot with a Taser gun, pepper sprayed, and learn the code of conduct when patrolling. This training is what is going to carry on and reflect in the future.
Officer Rodriguez grew up in South Newark and became a cop to make a difference in people’s lives. His stance on the issue is that not all cops are the same. He went on to describe his experiences working in neighborhoods where he had encounters with new criminals as well as old ones he grew up with. He is an example of what a police officer should be: a reflection of the community. He also provided interesting information: the two most dangerous parts of being a cop are pulling someone over and domestic violence. He further explained when people commit a crime and an officer pulls them over, the officer has does not know the mentality or identity of the person. Domestic violence is also tricky because the spouse who calls in the 911 calls tends to be mercurial in their judgment and ends up fighting the officers who come in to take the aggressor out. He then went on to explain how you act will define how others treat you as a police officer.
Sgt. Sanders grew up in Irvington, New Jersey and has a history in the military. He is in his 40s and works here at NJIT. He works with Public Safety and was here to share his experiences in working with the police force. He further discussed the lack of black citizens in the police force and agreed on the point of the population reflecting on the police force. Police tend not to be black due to societal stigma, however, if we are ever to have a true police force that reflects the people, we should have African Americans in the administration.
While it is unfortunate that it required such extreme circumstances to bring the NJIT community together in addressing racism, this forum was very informative, and gave students great comfort in knowing that administration and faculty are supportive and willing to help in any way they can. Forums such as this one should be implemented in societies across America. The black struggle has been and will continue to be in the spotlight and will continue to gain momentum as time passes, and ultimately, it will be up to the discretion of these citizens to take action and ensure everyone is treated fairly and equally.