Online Event Highlighted Community Discussion on Policing | Thomas Nelson Community College

Online Event Highlighted Community Discussion on Policing

December 10, 2020
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A community discussion about policing recently took place at Thomas Nelson's Workforce Development Center and streamed live on YouTube and Facebook. Participants also joined via Zoom. 

Police behavior and interactions with the communities they serve have been hot topics in national and local news in recent years. On Tuesday evening, Dec. 8, Thomas Nelson, in conjunction with the Good People Group, had the second in a series of community discussions. Students, educators and community members got together with law enforcement officials from the College and community to discuss these important issues.

“It is certainly our hope that these conversations on these really significant topics will continue going into the future,”   Dr. Gregory DeCinque, the College's interim president, said in introducing the event. “The College really wants to be a nexus for discussions about societal change and social justice, and other issues of equity within our community.”

Earlier this year, DeCinque established the Social Justice and Societal Change Committee to facilitate these types of discussions and interactions.

On the panel at the most recent event, which was called “The Community Speaks: A Cutting Edge Conversation about Policing,” were:

  • Kelvin Maxwell, chief of police at Thomas Nelson;
  • Kathy Shannon, a sergeant with Thomas Nelson police;
  • Glen Spruill, an officer with Thomas Nelson police;
  • Dave Coffey, program head and police science professor at Thomas Nelson
  • Lt. Micahel Steward, crime prevention unit commander, Hampton University
  • Eddie Perry Jr., retired Chief of Police for Virginia State University, and a former chief at Thomas Nelson;
  • Lathaniel Kirts, pastor at Pray First Mission Ministries in Newport News;
  • Ja-Vell Bullard, Good People Group and owner of Jay Elites Barber Shop.

The panelists stressed these roundtables are important to understand what is happening in the community and how to facilitate change. They also realized these events are just a starting point.

“The issues are too important, too big (not to try to tackle them.) … “We’re looking to bring about change,” Coffey said.

Crystal Carrington of the Good People Group said this is “a process of change and cultural awareness.”

A number of the panelist discussed their interactions with police, and Thomas Nelson Human Services Professor Keisha Samuels revealed a seemingly innocent event involving her 10-year-old son.

The two of them were riding bikes in their neighborhood recently when her son turned around in a driveway to allow her to catch up with him. Samuels told her son that, as a young black male, he has to be careful because his actions could be taken the wrong way.

“I immediately said, ‘Don’t do that. That could get you killed,’” she said.

Her son didn’t understand at first what the big deal was. She explained to him that “someone could see it differently than just the innocence of a 10-year-old turning around so his mom could catch up with him.”

Other portions of the event: Thomas Nelson sychology professor Patrick Smith provided a presentation called “Trauma Effects: Minority Status, Social Abuse and Health Outcomes;”  videotaped conversations with several panelists and community members in a local barbershop; and a live question-and-answer period at the end.

The nearly two-hour discussion was streamed live on Zoom and YouTube, and attracted nearly 50 viewers. View it at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOc4Kfty8SA&feature=youtu.be.

Marian Clifton, an adjunct faculty member in Public Safety, Allied Health and Human Services at Thomas Nelson, serves on the College’s Social Justice and Societal committee. She said another event is set for next year to coincide with the 2021 National Day of Racial Healing, which is Jan. 19.