At a very young age, like many—if not most—of the BOYCP students and parents, I learned to stare straight, walk at a medium pace, control the pace of my breathing, arms to the side, hands extended, alert, whenever a police officer was near me. My mother reminded me to not draw attention to myself.
I am told that cops are supposed to be there to protect me; however, I do not believe that when people around me have lived through horrible interactions with police. The cops present in my school always remind me of my father crying out, “they grabbed my hand like a pig.”
Years ago, just a few blocks away from Nightingale Elementary School, near Back of the Yards High School, my father was hurrying on his way home to get the keys to his car when he was brutally attacked by cops. My father went into our home and, without a warrant or permission, 12 to 15 cops invaded our home, called him names, made fun of him, beat him and never proceeded to tell him why.
They bent his arm horribly and he had no option but to scream. In that situation, his rights were violated by 15 cops—the same cops who patrol, supposedly serve, and protect the neighborhoods of Back of the Yards and Gage Park. The same cops who patrol our community schools.
Now I ask you all: Is this the first time you’re hearing of a story like this? It’s probably not, because just like my father, our Black, Brown, students, families and neighbors of color share countless negative experiences with police officers. The cops that inflict this violence are in our school building. Officer Boss and Scottman, together, total 33 allegations and 18 reports of use of force. These officers who supposedly protect our school contribute to the 2,354 misconduct complaint records against SRO’s and School Liaison Supervisors assigned by CPS.
The Back of the Yards community is ready for real solutions to violence. I have learned that police do NOT mean safety for Black, Brown, Indigenous and communities of color. Our schools are a second home to bright students who deserve the tools that prevent violence— tools like restorative justice mediators, more art and music classroom space and programs, more sports funding, and more community accountability. This is why my father is in favor of getting rid of cops and this is why I am urging you to remove SRO’s from our schools.