PENNSAUKEN, N.J. (CBS) — South Jersey teenagers sat down with Pennsauken police officer to have a very real conversation about racism and policing. The ongoing protests against police brutality and calls for police reform are being felt around the country and around the world.
George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis and the movement it has spawned is not lost on these students 1,100 miles away in Pennsauken.
“As a black kid in America, and witnessing everything that’s happened, it’s psychologically affected me, just being felt like a target and having to see everything go on and being worrisome and cautious in certain areas,” Pennsauken High School student True Styles said.
The Pennsauken Township Police Department sat down with student-athletes this week, opening up an honest dialogue about race relations and community policing.
“They highlighted some issues and some discrepancies in how we think vs. maybe a person that’s not an officer thinks. So I’m hoping that we pretty much bridge that gap in communication,” Officer Charles Brewer said.
Brewer now protects and serves the community where he grew up. He says he sees the need for police reform and understands the need for accountability.
“At the end of the day, we have one of the few jobs where during the course of our job, we can take someone’s freedom or take a life and it has to be justified and it has to be done correctly,” Brewer said.
“The meeting was good, just sitting there and them talking to us about us how they don’t just wake up and, ‘Oh, I’m gonna target that person.’ They just wake up with a mindset of whose life can I impact, whose day can I make,” student Khalil Ali said.
“Pennsauken, we’re a diverse community. We think we have really good relations but we need to have these conversations to make sure that the picture we have in our head is the picture the kids have in their head,” Pennsauken High School coach Bill Snyder said.
“I hope that it opens their eyes to everything that’s going on and the injustice and that we have to keep advocating and keep being activists after this. Like this isn’t just the end, we have to continue having these conversations no matter how uncomfortable it makes people feel,” student Keturah Jones said.
The students also organized and planned a march and vigil to honor Floyd. It will be Wednesday night in Pennsauken.