At the height of discord between civilians and law enforcement, the EC Black Student Union (BSU) invited members of the EC community and the Elmhurst Police Department to take part in a dialogue in the Blume Board Room on Nov. 28.
“We want to fully understand both perspectives and understand how we can contribute positively to both sides of the conversation and the equation to ensure that both civilians and law enforcement all basically help each other, protect each other and all go home safely at the end of the day,” stated Adjunct professor Dr. Vincent Thomas Jr. who was the moderator for the discussion.
Students and faculty voiced their concerns over personal experiences that they felt involved racial profiling by Elmhurst law enforcement.
Junior Derrick Mayfield shared a recent experience in which he and a group of his six friends were walking towards Krave and were stopped by a police officer on St. Charles Street under the suspicion that they were carjackers.
Mayfield recalled that the officer then proceeded to follow them to Krave despite the group doing nothing ostensibly wrong.
“He literally gets there [Krave’s] just right before us, orders whatever he ordered, I don’t even know if he really ordered anything and he sat across the room from us and literally stayed there until we left,” he added.
Similarly, Thomas recalls a situation in which he and his friend were still students at EC and were stopped by police due to the suspicion that they were stealing from Dominick’s.
“To be honest, the officers saw two young black men, one with locks and one with a ‘fro in Elmhurst, Illinois in 2003. at’s why we got stopped,” Thomas stated.
In light of those incidents that have occurred within the Elmhurst community, Diamond Dixon an Elmhurst attorney and EC alum expressed the critical use of good judgement by officers in dealing with civilians.
“Police officers are trained differently so maybe their discretion levels are a little different, but at the end of the day, because we are expecting officers to be trained properly, your discretion is what’s going to matter on whether or not these people are going to jail,” Dixon stated. “We have to trust that you guys are trained to be unbiased and to do the right thing in that regard.”
Elmhurst Chief of Police Michael R. Ruth, who seemed to express disbelief at the shared experiences of both Derrick and Thomas, asserted that racial profiling should not be a standard of judgement for any law enforcement officer.
“Good judgement is going to warrant a citation,” he said. “Race, ethnicity and age should never be a factor in the enforcement of the law. It should be based on the totality of the circumstance.”
In light of EC’s growing diversity, Dixon commends the chief for playing a role in implementing diversity training to his officers.
“I applaud the Chief for giving his officers diversity training and things like that because honestly Elmhurst as a whole right now is a lot more diverse than it was when I was going to Elmhurst College and that’s still not even a lot,” she stated.
Ruth makes it clear that he wants his officers to be engaged with the community and to assume active roles within Elmhurst.
“We hire people from the community to be police officers. We work an eight hour day, we go home, we have families where we assume different roles,” he said. “A multitude of roles are going to be son, father, husband or wife, siblings. So, we’re members of the community as well.”
Unfortunately, he feels that there is still an air of misconception about officers that make their duties substantially more difficult.
Media platforms such as Facebook’s new live streaming feature have only proved to mislead the public more than it informs according to Jeff Kedrowski executive director of security and emergency management.
“We are a microwave society,” Kedrowski stated. “We’re so used to getting things done quickly. I think sometimes that impacts perspectives of the police, perspectives of incidents and perspectives of people in the community,”
“We have all the video cameras we want, we can articulate the reason for the stop all we want, but if the person inside that vehicle feels differently then that’s something that we have to try to overcome,” Ruth stated.