About a dozen teens from the Boys and Girls Club of Columbus met on Tuesday evening with a group of Columbus Police officers, including Chief Kim Jacobs. The pretext for the event: a teen-led dialogue with law enforcement.
In an era where the issues of police brutality and police involved shootings have become a national concern, the Boys and Girls Club organization launched an effort to hold these events across the country.
At the meeting, teens were asked if they distrusted the police and why. While the majority of teens admitted to having a negative perception of officers, the majority found that their opinion was based on events they saw in the media as opposed to first-hand experience interacting with police.
Stacy, a young participant who only gave her first name, suggested officers interact more with young people. She referenced videos on social media of one Columbus officer hanging out with local teens.
"I wish others would have more positive interactions with us," Stacy said, " instead of just coming when there's a crime."
Chief Jacobs said the issue of distrust was not something that law enforcement alone can change. Jacobs encouraged everyone to consider a career in the police force, and said an increase in diversity could help change the perception of the profession.
"Our recruiting people are here for reason, because we need diversity within our ranks so that we can understand the problems and issues that you've grown up with dealing with the police," Jacobs said.
Rebecca Asmo, CEO of the local Boys and Girls Club, says she hopes this event will be only the first of many aimed at fostering a stronger relationship between Columbus youth and law enforcement.
Some of the club members have known victims of police involved shootings, and many voiced concern over negative interactions with police. Asmo says the group shared with police officials what they think an ideal relationship should look like.
"It's been really inspiring to watch our young people take the lead on an event like this, and it'll be more inspiring to see what comes next," Asmo said.
Asmo says Columbus Police have committed to working with club members in order to achieve some of the ideas from the evening.