Brooklyn Teens To Join Online Panels About Police-Community Relations

Brooklyn Teens To Join Online Panels About Police-Community Relations
Students and teachers from Brooklyn Amity School and other participating schools held hands in a show of unity.
Students and teachers from Brooklyn Amity School and other participating schools held hands in a show of unity.

Students at six Brooklyn high schools in a diverse set of neighborhoods will be kicking off the first in a series of “digital youth dialogues” about police-community relations this Tuesday, January 20, using Google Hangout in order to have video chat conversations with one another, as well as off-duty police officers.

The goal, say students, staff and organizers, is to foster an ongoing conversation between youth that builds bridges between their often self-contained neighborhood environments. In the bigger picture, the dialogues “will be used to help produce a report of recommendations with the goal of advancing public safety citywide, as well as police and criminal justice reforms nationwide.”

Bishop Kearney High School in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn Amity School in Sheepshead Bay, and Magen David Yeshivah High School in Gravesend are among the participating schools whose administrators responded to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ call for student voices.

“We are excited and believe this is a wonderful opportunity for our students,” said Monica Bajraktarevic, assistant director at Brooklyn Amity, whose students will have their first online video conversation on Tuesday with peers from Sunset Park High School.

“I look forward to finding solutions to challenges that face all of us,” stated Bishop Kearney student Amanda Alexander during a January 11 press conference announcing the Digital Youth Dialogues initiative. “It is a privilege and honor to participate.”

Bishop Kearney students will have their first video chat with students from Brownsville’s Eagle Academy for Young Men II.

Jack Beyda, a senior at Magen David Yeshiva, agreed, noting that “nothing is wrong with dignified disagreement. It is only when we talk with a lack of respect that society begins to crumble.”

The other participating schools include the Brooklyn Academy of Science and Environment in Crown Heights and Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brownsville.

The Digital Youth Dialogues project is a collaboration between Adams — an outspoken advocate for both the “police” and the “community” aspects of the police-community relationship, himself a former NYPD captain who had also stopped and frisked as a youth — and Roy Richter, union president of the NYPD’s Captains Endowment Association, as well as Norman Siegel, former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The project will run for a few months before a summary report is drawn up. Students are free to continue the conversations on their own, as well.

“I see [these dialogues] helping with building understanding and relationships. There’s nothing but positives,” Richter, who could not attend the press conference, told us over the phone. “It’s important to create ready lines of communication. [Our union] members are aware and hopeful. [And] the NYPD does a tremendous job with police-community relations, but this can help with that. It’s an investment in the future.”

Adams noted that the project was planned before the citywide protests in response to the Eric Garner grand jury decision and the unprovoked murders of NYPD Detectives Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

“In the last several weeks, our city and its residents have faced significant trials, challenges to our public safety, the foundation of our society,” said Adams. “In previous generations, moments like these have divided our city, leading to discord and animosity. Today, we can all agree that New York City is stronger and greater than it has ever been, and that is too precious to let the errors of the past repeat themselves. We only survive and prosper if we engage with one another in a calm and civil conversation, and that is what this announcement is all about: the public safety and civil harmony of our five boroughs.”

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