Teens give their thoughts on the role of police in their society.
What to do if the police stop you

By Carine Carmy, 15, Milken Community High School
Print This Post

When TV stations began airing the video of an Inglewood teenager in handcuffs being thrown against a police car and punched in the face by officers, many teens were outraged. Some said the incident confirmed their view that police abuse their power. Others, however, thought it was an isolated incident and that most police act responsibly.

It’s hard to know exactly what happened in this case. The police said the youth, Donovan Jackson, lunged at them and was uncooperative. But his dad, who was driving the car when they were stopped, said the attack was unprovoked. Family members said that the teen was developmentally disabled. Maybe the police, unaware of his handicap, interpreted a slow response as his being hostile.

Many teens said they had been questioned by the police but conceded that cops need to be proactive in order to deter crime. A young woman on Melrose Boulevard expressed a common view: "Police pick on teens when they are just hanging out and doing nothing wrong. It’s not fair but I can understand why it needs to be done," said Tamar Minissian, 17, from Woodland Hills.

Some youth were upset that it took a videotape and excessive media coverage for people to care about police misconduct. Gregory Elrod, 17, from Torrey Pines expressed his concern "that the only time an issue like this is heard has to be when the media gets involved. It should be normal for citizens to balance the authorities just like Congress does the president."

The mayor of Inglewood has been applauded for his public criticism of the incident. He has even suggested that police cars be equipped with video cameras to discourage future problems. "The incident is being taken very seriously," stated Ronald C. Banks, chief of police in Inglewood, in a news release. The department has conducted a formal internal affairs investigation but has yet to release its findings.

Jeremy Morse, the officer who punched Donovan Jackson, has been charged with assault. Another officer, Bijan Darvish, has been charged with filing a false police report. The two officers have been placed on paid leave and will face a trial in October.

Despite the promise of change, some youth in Inglewood have little faith in reforms and investigations. I spoke with a group of teens involved in Keep it Real, a program aimed at implementing alternatives to violence.

Antjuan Pennie, 17, said, "They will just stick him [Donovan] with a cool little settlement and everything will go back the way it was … They got that badge, they’re going to do what they want."

According to Willie Earvin, 15, "Every gang has a snitch and every police department has a crooked cop."

No one in the group seemed outraged or shocked by the incident as other teens had. Some felt that if the police showed more respect to youth, a similar situation could be avoided. First impressions make a big difference, according to Antjuan. "By just saying ‘what’s up’ instead of ‘Hey! You!’ my reactions towards the police would change."

When asked them if there was anything they could say to the police that might help situation, they chuckled. "Not anything that you can print," someone said.

Willie added, "Leave us alone." "