Pazen asks parents to talk to kids about South…
Denver’s police chief has asked parents to talk with their kids about the contents of a video about bystandership in racist attacks shown at Denver South High School this week that included a tip that people don’t call police unless the victim requests it.
Police Chief Paul Pazen said he recognizes not everyone is comfortable contacting police, and urged students to tell a trusted adult or anonymously report any concerns or threats to authorities through Colorado’s Safe2Tell program. But he was dismayed at the video’s instruction not to call police, especially as a product of Denver Public Schools himself.
“At a time that we have high levels of violence, how in the world does advancing an ideology [like this] advance public safety?” Pazen told The Denver Gazette.
Denver South Principal Rachel Goss didn’t respond to an interview request. The Denver Gazette also has not received information requested from a district spokesperson about why the school showed the video to students and any policy on calling police in an incident. Some hate-based acts may have implications for mandatory reporting, which requires certain professionals to report suspected child abuse, neglect or exploitation.
“Armed police presence often escalates, rather than reduces, the risk of violence in a situation,” says the narrator of the video, which was posted by the New York City-based Barnard Center for Research on Women. “Because police have been trained to see people of color, gender non-conforming folks and Muslims as criminals, they often treat victims as perpetrators of violence.”
That last part has drawn resounding criticism from Denver’s law enforcement leaders, who took issue with the implication that bias is an overt part of their training.
The video, titled “Don’t be a Bystander: 6 Tips for Responding to Racist Attacks,” was shown on Tuesday, the first day of the new school, to students inside a gym.
The narrator adds: “So, if the victim hasn’t asked you to call the police, do not – I repeat – do not call the police.”
Goss posted a message to the school’s website saying the video “offers suggestions for possible interventions that do not include contacting law enforcement.”
“I am writing this note to emphasize that the intention behind the video was to provide empowerment for people who may witness these types of attacks, not to have any sort of negative impact on the longstanding relationship between the Denver Public Schools and the Denver Police Department,” Goss wrote.
The video, and response from Goss, drew mixed reactions from students and parents who spoke to The Denver Gazette.
“From a teenage point of view, there is only so much you can do before you take matters into your own hands, because the police don’t handle it well,” said one student.
“It was a well-intentioned video that was not well thought-out. The school did not mean any malice by it; they just did not consider how all the pieces (of the video) would be taken,” said a mother.
Another mother said the school sent an explanation that it did not intend the message to be police should not be called, but to give information about other options.
“They said in the email that they still liked working with the Denver police,” she said.
In a letter sent to the Denver school board, Colorado’s law enforcement professional associations representing Colorado’s law enforcement officers said their organizations are prepared to work with the district to improve relationships between students, educators and law enforcement. They requested the board communicate “accurate” information to district families about handling potentially violent situations and the best ways to engage law enforcement.
“The need for progress exists in every system that our communities depend on — including both criminal justice and our public schools,” reads the letter signed by the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police, the County Sheriffs of Colorado, and the Denver and Colorado Police Protective Associations.
“We must work together constructively to identify and implement solutions.”
The Denver Gazette
BY LUIGE DEL PUERTO AND JULIA CARDI The Denver Gazette Denver Gazette reporters Cecilia Timberg and Carol McKinley contributed to this report.
Reprinted from The Denver Gazette