Who is watching the wild youth?
That seemed to be the theme for the a la carte evening which was session 9 of the Citizens Police Academy. In one evening we heard from a sergeant with the Anti-Gang Squad; a father whose teenage son was killed by a gang member; the Youth Services captain; and finally, a sergeant in School Safety. All were very much versed in the “what” of their expertise, but lacking in causality.
The evening began with a fascinating peek behind the veil of gang culture. We learned about gang initiation, we learned about the unique gang language, we learned about the gang “steps,” and we learned about the myriad of signals which gang members use to identify other gang members. All this in a little over a half-hour. When the instructing sergeant was asked what need the gangs filled for its members, we were told that gang members did not get enough hugs at home, and gangs were their family. Unfortunately, the sergeants explanation only covers why gang members would alienate themselves from their families, or their fragmented family. Her explanation failed to explain why gang members would choose to indulge in, what appears to be, self-destructive behavior. My guess is there exists a strong element of hopelessness in creating the gang counterculture.
Next we were treated to a heartfelt interlude by the father of a teenager recently killed by a gang member, ostensibly over an iPod. The father briefly spoke of what happened to his son. He blamed his son’s death on a gang member, and by inference, gangs. Since his son’s death, this gentleman has dedicated himself to creating safer neighborhoods by working against gangs. However, he seems to have done little, and given little thought to, addressing the reasons gangs exist in the first place.
The next speaker was from Youth Services, and spoke about the many opportunities made available to the youth in each community by the NYPD. I understand the Explorers, the Youth Police Academy, and the Police Athletic League all are great programs for the youth in the communities. Still, a little about the original thinking behind creating these groups would have given us a much fuller picture.
The last speaker, (more appropriately speakers, led by a sergeant), spoke about School Safety. The sergeant had the amazing ability to turn the mundane into the monumental. The relatively routine wanding of students for weapons, in this officer’s hands became an art form. Where the sergeant fell flat was in explaining the “why” of what he did. He told us under no circumstances, may a female student be wanded by a male officer, because of the possibility of false accusations. Then by way of example, he told us how a female officer was wrongfully accused of doing inappropriate wanding by a group of malicious girls. He used a similarly inappropriate example in explaining how everyone must be wanded, even teachers who would be given a free ride if they had walked through the teacher’s entrance. So, it is unclear why they were being wanded because they walked through one entrance, and not the other. Then there was the talking technique to discover weapons hidden in the mouth. The sergeant gave an example which showed this technique to be useless at detecting weapons in the mouth. So, in the end, it is unclear why the talking technique is used at all.
Despite issues with session 9, what we did learn made for an, in turns, fascinating, moving, informative, and entertaining evening. So, there was actually much to be gained from session 9.
Next week it is counter terrorism. I am looking forward to more than just, “if you see something, say something.” In any case, I shall certainly see something, and say something.
I am so very there!