Saturday, December 13th Dr. Penn was invited by the Houston Police Department to observe how police keep the city and all citizens safe during protest operations. Houston, like many cities across the United States, held weekly protest in light of the grand jury’s "no bill" conclusion in Ferguson, Missouri. Roughly three sets of protesters were involved with signs stating "Black Life Matters", "Hands Up; Don't Shoot" and "All Life Matters". According to Penn, the two hours were filled with moments of tension and emotions as the protesters believed there were too many officers which were harassing them and preventing them from expressing themselves. Police perspective however, was the importance of keeping protesters safe, traffic moving and any altercations form occurring. Throughout the afternoon there were battles of words and will. While the 100 officers on scene were called derogatory names and often reminded who pays their salary, they kept their composure and smiled or turned away when insulted.
Those who marched that day remind TAPS Academy members that issues of race and social class are still create feelings of discord and lack of trust and misunderstanding, not only in the criminal justice system, but in the broader scope of interactions between United States' citizens. Social distance creates the lack of knowledge or stereotypes about those we do not know and are often tragic to the group labeled. The solution is to promote interaction among these distant groups so that true representations can be made. TAPS Academy does this everyday by providing structured environments that brings at-risk youth and police together in in efforts to build mutual respect and understanding. Both the police and youth need to be heard; TAPS Academy gives them voice.
Dr. Penn explaining police interaction with a protester.