Event opens honest dialogue

Community and law enforcement gather to discuss how to rebuild trust.



Rebecca Mitchell, Writer

To create an open dialogue between Biola’s community and local law enforcement, the sociology department hosted “Building Trust, Advancing Peace” on Nov. 10.

The pursuit of change

Approximately 30 students and La Mirada community members gathered in seven groups, each with one Campus Safety officer and one Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officer as well as a facilitator and note taker. Within the sociology department, adjunct professor of sociology Robert Sowell planned the event with his Peacemaking in a Violent World class, and professor of sociology Brad Christerson worked on the logistics.

“We need to be in dialogue about these issues and intentional about pursuing change because otherwise it’s not going to change. We’re just going to be in our camps and misunderstandings won’t be challenged and progress won’t be made,” Christerson said.

Building trust

To create dialogue, each group’s goal centered around creating a safe and open space for community and law enforcement members to share their experiences and thoughts on law enforcement. As one of the group facilitators, Los Angeles county social worker Vaka Faletau sought to encourage building trust.

“I think we’ve seen in our country law enforcement and community are somehow their relationship are not at great strength right now, and I think this is the time of healing and a time of trying to rebuild and strengthen that trust,” Faletau said.

A negative perception

A large part of the night focused on understanding the value in listening to and hearing from one another, as well as seeing how each person has a valuable individual life experience. The topic also focused on one’s outlook on individuals, where one should see a person as an individual rather than a group of people. In one of the groups, they discussed how the media portrays police involvement in communities that negatively affects people’s perception of the police.

The care for law enforcement and community members can continue to come as the interactions go beyond the day-to-day job of an officer, including events where both sides share their opinions.

“What this does is allow that personal interaction, and especially in this kind of setting where we can be open with each other and have that trust that we can discuss these things that might be sensitive,” said Seth Johnson, LASD deputy sheriff of the La Mirada special assignment officer team. “We’re able to relate to each other and just learn more about each other and learn the most important thing that we are all individuals and we all are in this together.”

Campus Safety encourages personal interactions with students by visiting resident advisors on duty every shift as well as stopping to talk to students around campus. Noah Beckler, freshmen Bible major, hopes the dialogue will help in changing the relationship between communities and law enforcement.

“The whole purpose of dialogue is a transfer of information, and along those lines, if we don’t talk, if we don’t write, if we don’t speak, we’re not going to come up with any solutions to any of the problems we’re facing,” Beckler said. “Problems are agitated by a lack of speaking up, and so I think it’s our duty to really voice our opinions, really engage in those conversations, otherwise the problems that we’re facing now, especially this big one… it’ll keep going on and on.”

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