CORAL SPRINGS, FL – I, like the vast majority of Americans, was completely disgusted watching the graphic video of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department.

After seeing the video, I wanted to make sure that everything was being done by our police department to prevent such events from ever happening in our own community. I sent a letter to Chief Clyde Parry of the Coral Springs Police Department (CSPD) with several questions and proposals, and Chief Parry generously offered to meet with me to discuss the contents of the letter.

My first request was to implement an Early Intervention System (EIS). An EIS flags officers with the potential to cause issues for the department based on several different indicators. During my meeting with CSPD, I learned the department already has a working EIS that has been used several times in the past to detect problematic behavior.

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My next request was for the policies of CSPD to require officers to intervene when they see another officer use excessive force. I was told that a revision of policy that makes this explicit has been drafted and will be reviewed. Furthermore, I was told officers who stand idly by when misconduct is occurring would be punished regardless, even if it was not explicitly stated.

I also asked to increase transparency by making body camera footage and CSPD policies freely available to the public. I was informed the cost and time of redacting all body camera footage would make this proposal unfeasible, but body camera footage is available per request for a small fee. The CSPD also said that they will put a link to their policies on their website.

Finally, I called for an increased community voice in the department. In the meeting, we talked about various ways to have direct community feedback of policies and policing so both the community and CSPD can better understand each other. Deputy Chief Shawn Backer also noted that CSPD is actively trying to improve in explaining to community members why they are being contacted by an officer when interaction occurs.

(Coral Springs city officials recently created a task force between community leaders and police department administrators to examine police policies and procedures. Read our story here on the taskforce.)

Meeting with Chief Parry and Deputy Chiefs Backer and Brad McKeone was an invaluable experience.

Not only did we discuss positive changes and improvements that could be made, but I also learned a lot about policing.

I recommend to anyone who wants to make meaningful change in their community to have dialogues rather than monologues, because this is the only way to reduce the ignorance of others while also reducing your own.

Athitheya Gobinathan is the 2019 valedictorian of Coral Springs High School.

 

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