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Gun Trafficking & Trauma: A Woke & Winning Youth Action Summer Series Topic

At our last Woke & Winning event featuring former ATF Agent and Project Director for the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, Mark Jones, we explored the topic of community policing and mental health on the part of both the police officer and the citizens. And we all agreed that a cop who is struggling with mental health issues is as deadly as a surgeon with a scalpel who is having an anxiety attack while operating on your heart. The possibility of living through a scenario like that is severely compromised and, in truth, highly unlikely.

That said, police departments (all over the country not just in Chicago) need to find better ways of identifying and dealing with members in their ranks who are not mentally fit for active duty in the field. Those officers who pose a threat to communities rather than serve as peace keepers need to be removed, evaluated, and rehabilitated using evidenced-based therapy methods before allowing them to enter people’s homes and people’s lives. People, who in critical situations are expecting police officers and often times desperately needing police officers, turn to their local police station or officer patrolling to be a supportive force rather than a destructive one. When people believe or witness the latter, police as lacking integrity and police as enemies of the people, a breakdown of society occurs – who then will uphold the law? Who then will support us in our greatest times of need? Sadly, this breakdown has become the reality in many communities in America, including Chicago.

Who here knows about the draft dissent decree that is currently in review for the Chicago Police Department (CPD)? President Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder had the Chicago Police Department investigated by the nation’s Justice Department and through their research evidence was gathered that clearly showed a consistent and historical pattern of the CPD using excessive force that was often racially motivated and that these issues are part of “systemic deficiencies in training and accountability, including the failure to train officers in de-escalation and the failure to conduct meaningful investigations of uses of force."

The draft dissent decree is a document that was drafted to RIGHT the WRONGS that police in this city have contributed to heavily and historically in African American and Latino communities across the city. When this decree is finalized, its purpose is to create a standard of accountability for police in the city that reflects what is needed and expected by ALL citizens regardless of race or economic status.

At the close of July, the draft dissent decree was released for comment and revision by the PEOPLE – that’s US. Here is a link:

Beyond the dissent decree, to learn more about our full conversation with Mark Jones, you need to understand what is called the ACES – Adverse Childhood Experiences survey – you know this is important when even OPRAH is talking about it and wants to do a happy dance because it has changed HER life.

According to Mark and research he has done – 2/3 of our population has at least 1 ACE score – which means most of us belong to the rule and not the exception, in this case. The fact is that what happens to us as children has a lasting effect that can change the course of our lives positively or negatively and that instead of thinking what is wrong with me (or that person), we need to think what happened to me (or that person) and how is the trauma of those childhood events presenting continuous emotional challenges to me (or that person) in new events in life? This is where Trauma-Informed Care comes in. Here’s a video clip on what Oprah had to say about ACES and Trauma-Informed Care:

The bottom-line is we as a people and society need to grow in understanding that regardless of who we are or what position we hold – teacher, police officer, surgeon or senator – that trauma and mental health really play a role in our contributions to the world – how we act on the job, at home, or in personal relationships. And so in knowing that this is something most of us face as a result of our childhoods, rather than being stigmatized, mental health assessments and care need to become normalized supports in all aspects of our lives – so that we can feel confident in those that we turn to (i.e. police officers) and so that individually we can feel good about our impact on our world.

Thank you Mark for opening our eyes and minds to an often undiscussed component of policing and our communities.

The National Youth Art Movement Against Gun Violence and The WasteShed received a grant from the Chicago Fund for Safe & Peaceful Communities to develop and deliver the 2018 Woke & Winning Youth Action Summer Workshop series. The goal of the workshop series is to give youth and emerging artists, between the ages of 16 and 25 years old (with a focus specifically on youth who live in the Humboldt Park, Garfield Park, and Austin communities), the opportunity to learn from local and national political activists and to transform their new knowledge into art projects for social justice on the issue of gun violence.

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