The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater hosted a Peace Circles forum to bring people from campus and the outside community together for an open dialogue on issues of campus climate and policing.
The event, which was sponsored by the Black Student Union, was held Tuesday Sept. 27 at 6:30 p.m. in the University Center Hamilton room.
Officer David Howard from the campus police department was at the event to help build a connection between police officers and students.
“I think officers need to be proactive in gaining that connection with other cultures,” Howard said.
Howard was the only officer present for the discussions.
Being an African American police officer, he said he is sympathetic to the grievances many have with
Radaya Ellis, a senior and member of BSU, said the officers that students have trouble with do not show up for public forums. Howard was the only officer present for
“What I want to know is where is the police department?” Ellis said.
Members of BSU said the community and police department do not understand their experience as black students.
Ellis told a story of an encounter with the police.
When she left the library on campus to go home, a police officer followed her and waited until she reached her apartment to pull her over. She said as her car was searched, a total of seven police cars showed up. Although the charges were eventually dropped, Ellis was given three tickets.
“I was unjustly searched,” she said. “There was no reason for it.”
Ellis said her first negative experiences with police officers were in Whitewater.
“That didn’t happen to me until I got here,” Ellis said.
Police officers are less friendly when she is with her black friends, she said, compared to when she is with a group of white people.
Officer Howard said he will spread the messages he heard from students to the rest of the department and try to keep an open dialogue with the community.
“It’s our job to communicate the law to people,” Howard said.
The second Peace Circles event will be held at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at Whitewater High School.