LIFE! WHAT A JOURNEY with CHARLES CHISALA
LATELY the police have come under fire for what some people view as high-handedness in the management of public peace.
They were accused of using brutal force to suppress a protest by Copperbelt University students during this yearâ€™s Independence celebrations in Kitwe.
According to media accounts a horde of placard hoisting students tried to disrupt the laying of wreaths at the City Square in honour of those who lost their lives as a result of the struggle for our independence.
Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Chishimba Kambwili was the guest of honour and was in in no way amused by the studentsâ€™ adventurism.
Two days later a tabloid published some pictures on its front page to back its allegations of police brutality.
Questions have been asked as to whether our police service is professional in the manner it handles unruly crowds. I will give my personal views on this contentious issue soon.
But I stumbled on this piece in the Washington Post last week on how a lone female DC police officer used an unconventional and creative tactic to defuse an imminent physical clash between two groups of teenagers on October 28, 2015.
A teen captured the whole episode on video and posted it on social media.
Her small act has gone viral on American social media, and the female officer has become an instant celebrity. I deemed it wise to share the story with you, and here it is:
DC cop challenges teen to a dance-off competition
By PERRY STEIN
On Monday afternoon, D.C. police officers broke up two groups of fighting teenagers. A few minutes later, a female officer approached the lingering crowd and told the teens to disperse.
Thatâ€™s when Aaliyah Taylor, a 17-year-old senior at Ballou High School, walked up to the officer and started playing â€œWatch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)â€ on her phone. Then she did the Nae Nae dance.
The officer, according to Taylor, laughed and said she had far better dance moves than that.
What happened from there on the 200 block of K Street SW was a rather impressive dance-off between the police officer and the teen, and an example of positive community policing at a time when national attention is focused on discriminatory and abusive police tactics.
The onlooking teens caught the dance battle on their cell phones while a song by rapper Dlow played in the background.
â€œInstead of us fighting, she tried to turn it around and make it something fun,â€ Taylor said. â€œI never expected cops to be that cool. There are some good cops.â€
Taylor said the officer told the group that if the teens won the dance-off, they could stay. If the officer won, they would have to leave [disperse and go home].
The two danced for a few minutes face-to-face â€” stanky leg and all â€” and Taylor said the officer would have kept going, but she got tired. Both Taylor and the officer declared themselves the victors, hugged and everyone left the area.
â€œI mostly hold my head down when I dance, so I didnâ€™t really see her,â€ Taylor said. â€œBut when I looked at the video after, I was like â€˜Oh, she has some moves.â€™â€
When reached by phone, the officer in the video said she did not want to be identified because she didnâ€™t want to make the story about her.
â€œItâ€™s kind of embarrassing that this became so big,â€ she said. â€œThis is what we do every day.â€ The officer has been with the force for about three years and recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq.
Marinos Marinos, the secretary of the D.C. police union, said these sorts of personal interactions between officers and residents arenâ€™t unusual â€” itâ€™s just that most donâ€™t make it to the Internet.
â€œWe are humans just like everyone else,â€ Marinos said. â€œEvery day we come in contact with thousands of citizens and almost all of them have positive outcomes.â€
D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier wrote in a statement that â€œthe viral video today of the First District Officer positively engaging with teens and diffusing the conflict yesterday in a manner that appropriately resolved the call is reflective of the many positive police-community interactions that take place daily in Washington, D.C.â€
For Taylor, she said the dance-off marked her first positive interaction with police officers in her neighborhood. She has six sisters and one brother and, according to Taylor, all have been arrested or detained for non-violent offenses like breaking curfew.
Taylor, who said sheâ€™s never been arrested, recalls her siblings saying that the officers acted unnecessarily rude and rough during their arrests.
Those experiences, Taylor said, had shaped her perception of police officers.
â€œI thought all cops were cruel because thatâ€™s how I saw them,â€ Taylor said. â€œIâ€™ve now seen there are good cops out there.â€
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser celebrated the officerâ€™s dance moves on Twitter on Wednesday, saying â€œDC has innovative waysâ€ to keep the city safer and stronger.
As for the who actually had the better moves? Marino said the officer had about 40 pounds of equipment and clothes on her, so it likely wasnâ€™t even a fair competition. WASHINGTON POST
The key lesson I have learned from this encounter is that itâ€™s not all the time that police have to use force to disperse a potentially violent mob. Peaceful but innovative tactics could just do the trick.
LIFE! WHAT A JOURNEY with CHARLES CHISALA