IMAGE: Meaghan Murphy and Captain Tyrone Collington at Capitol City Cheesecake in late August. Photo by Bill Brown.
BY BILL BROWN
Since the August 2014 police shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, there have been similar incidents reported monthly, sometimes weekly around the country. The proliferation of cell-phone video cameras, the increased deployment of “body-cams” worn by police officers and the ability to share such videos via the internet has made it possible for the public to “witness” these incidents.
The subject of police shootings and claims that young men of color are routinely singled out for police stops and arrests have become a large part of the national conversation. The Black Lives Matter movement grew out of protests against police shootings.
There were also vengeance killings of police officers in Dallas TX and Baton Rouge, LA this year, out of which grew a Blue Lives Matter movement.
Murphy speaks for the Unity in the Community initiative to the Takoma Park City Council Sept. 7, 2016. Photo by Bill Brown.
Local resident Meaghan Murphy saw her sons, close in age and color to Michael Brown and other casualties, become concerned about their own safety and confused about how to regard police officers. One of her sons, said Murphy, stopped running on the Sligo Creek Park trail, afraid that he might be misidentified as a criminal running from the scene of a crime.
She and her husband had “the talk” with them – the conversation about how young people of color would likely be singled out by police and how to act when they are.
She wanted to do something more than give her boys “the talk.” She decided to get young people, especially young people of color, community members of different backgrounds, city officials and the Takoma Park police together to meet, talk and get to know one another.
Meaghan Murphy prepares for a meeting with city police captain Tyrone Collington at Capital City Cheesecake in late August. Photo by Bill Brown.
Such a meeting, she hoped, would defuse tension for youth, police and parents. And she had just the place for it. Murphy is the co-owner of Capital City Cheesecake on Carroll Avenue, Takoma Park.
Murphy presented the idea to Mayor Kate Stewart and Captain Tyrone Collington in late July. Together, the three formulated a more ambitious plan – a series of forums called Unity in the Community. They wrote a city council resolution in support of it. Murphy addressed the council about the initiative before they unanimously passed it at their Wednesday Sept. 7 meeting.
The city sees its role as a partner with the community. None of the parties has a firm plan for the forums, they expect a plan will emerge from the participants. Murphy’s hope is that at the end the community, police and city will have built trust and unity.
The initiative will have a kick-off “Neighborhood Block Party,” Sept. 25, 4 – 7 p.m. at Capital City Cheescake