The young people in our Virtual Summer Camp know the world has to change. One group of middle school students chose to write to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Dermot Shea to call for changes in the police department. They highlighted what the NYPD is doing well while calling for equal police treatment neighborhoods, more diversity in the police force, and more funding for community programs. Our voices have power! #BlackLivesMatter You can read the full letter below:
Dear Mayor De Blasio and Commissioner Shea,
We are students in Phipps Neighborhoods after-school programs. We are currently enrolled in the Phipps Neighborhoods virtual summer camp. In our Service Learning class, we chose to work on addressing a societal issue that is of concern to all of us, and we are concerned about unfair policing and the mental health of people in our community.
This summer we learned about how some police officers treat people in our community in a different way than they do people in other communities. For instance, during the COVID-19 health crisis, people in a Bronx park were stopped for not wearing masks, while people in a Manhattan park were not. Many more people in Manhattan were violating the rules, but they were not stopped or arrested. This makes us concerned.
You may not be aware of this, but many people in our community have stress and anxiety because of the police. We know that there are great police officers out there doing a great job, but the bad officers are causing people to be afraid. Bronx residents suffer high rates of high blood pressure and poor mental health. Programs like Stop and Frisk have contributed to this problem because they stop people on the street for no reason and treat them like criminals. Statistics show that over 70% of people stopped had not committed any crimes. Even though this practice has been banned, some officers are still stopping people without cause.
The Bronx has been ranked number 62 out of all 62 New York Regions in key health and environmental indicators. We would like to make our community rise to the top, but we need your help. We suggest that there be a website where we can report officers doing bad things. We would also like to have a website where we can profile good officers so that they can be honored. We like the idea of putting more money into community basketball programs, like the one in Soundview section of the Bronx, where the police can play ball with us and we can get to know each other. Many people in the Soundview community like this program and they think it makes relationships between the police and the community better. We would like to see more diversity in the Bronx when it comes to officers. When we see officers that look like us, it encourages us to be our best. Maybe one day we will choose to serve and protect like you do.
Finally, because we are an after-school program, we would like to ask that more money be put into programs like ours so that kids have more activities to do. If kids have more fun activities after school, they will not get into trouble. This will help our community reduce stress and be on our way to better mental and physical health.
Thank you for reading our letter. Please put our suggestions into consideration.