Image from Facebook via Chicago Sun Times from the video of the Saturday, June 24, 2017 incident involving an off-duty Lansing, IL police officer and a Lansing, IL teen.
Since the towns where I live and teach are two separate locations, I hear news about my work city via Social Media and the news, be it the actual printed or electronic newspaper or television. Being aware of what I’ve missed is critical during breaks due to the fact that I want to be aware of what’s going on. This morning, all of the major networks’ broadcasts mentioned a Lansing, IL teen was assaulted by an off-duty police officer.
The first thing in my mind was: Does this incident involve one of my kids?
By kids I do not mean, biological, but as one of the kids I teach – be it I had taught them or will teach them. The young man involved is not one, as of yet.
He is fifteen, black, and scared due to the whole world being introduced to him as the teen whose face was shoved into the grass. Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have seen students of mine placed in this position.
If you have not watched the video, you should. This officer felt he had something to prove to this kid and his friends who tried to reason with him, the adult of the situation. Throughout the video, the teen remained calm and not combative.
Even though the video itself is short, and I have no context to explain what the teen might had been doing on or to the officer’s yard, regardless, was this an appropriate reaction?
Absolutely not. The officer’s behavior is shocking; the aggressive language and temper is completely, absolutely unnecessary. Being an educator at the local high school in Lansing, IL, Thornton Fractional South, teens are teens. They do things that make no sense. They say things that are uncalled for. But they have an excuse – they are kids. They are learning. They need to be guided. Not shoved down by adults who threaten their lives.
As of today, the various news outlets keep saying an investigation is underway. Really? From what I’ve read it appeared that the teen and his group met up with another group of teens. Together, they fought, separated, and went their own ways. Then this group came across the antithesis of Mr. Rogers. I would never want to be his neighbor.
If this fight was a precursor to the incident in question, then the teen and his group were so wound up that they needed space to calm down.
When fights occur at school, tension is through the roof, everyone’s bodies are on high alert, minds are a quick-draw to divide the fighting parties to then reach some sort of resolution to the conflict. Once a fight does subside, it is difficult to redirect teens to the task at hand. The rumors start. Videos are commonly shown and shared.
Stress is a killer for how individuals handle a situation. As a teacher, we have been told to break up a fight according to our comfort level. In no way will I ever intervene a brawl when the two or so parties outweigh and tower over me. But I will put my body between the two if the altercation has not become physical. I would continue to deescalate the situation with words until additional neutral parties arrive.
How does the police handle these stressful situations? Are they trained to understand when force is necessary and when it it overkill? Are do they just push their authority around demanding respect? Those in charge may not realize the idea that respect is earned…not assumed.