There was one kid,” says Rhonda McKitten, board member at Pennsylvania Disproportionate Minority Contact (PADMC), “who said that it was the first time that he had ever seen a cop smile.”
It’s those moments, in a nutshell, that explain the need for PADMC’s daylong forums, in which cops and kids—mostly African American—interface and share their hopes and concerns with each other. It’s a contrast to how inner city youth and police usually interact, in what McKitten calls a “law enforcement capacity,” with police either responding to an urgent call or having to contend with kids themselves. Cops, to these kids, often aren’t really people; they’re hulking, omnipresent authority figures who fixate on them over their white counterparts. And kids, to these cops, sometimes aren’t really citizens; they’re irrational, confusing proto-people with a penchant for stupid decisions.