By Samarah Bailey / Editor In Chief
No story is easy to tell. This one might be even harder.
In 2020, the United States has been through everything – from murder hornets to a pandemic to the rise of creativity among people living in the modern world.
One of the more notable things to happen in 2020 was the rapid rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
There are multiple sides to every argument, and everyone has their opinion.
When it comes to Black Lives Matter, it seems to be those who support the cause and those who don’t.
For many Black Lives Matter supporters, law enforcement, more specifically the police, tend to fall in the latter category.
Sheldon Stewart, Criminal Justice and Police Science instructor at Hutchinson Community College, has been teaching future police officers at HutchCC for seven years. Stewart is a retired sheriff’s officer, as he spent 25 years in the force.
The discussion of Black Lives Matter in relation to the police has been an ongoing discussion in Stewart’s class.
“I support any organization that is about rights and is about change- good change,” Stewart said.
One of the major topics involved in the recent movement is whether or not the police need to be defunded.
“I am hesitant to support defunding the police,” said Stewart, whose son Braden is a police officer who attended HutchCC. “Not because I’m a police officer, but for other reasons. One of those reasons is since the beginning of recorded time, we’ve always had people who want to hurt other people. There’s always a need for law enforcement and the protection of citizens in our society.”
Protecting people from those who want to hurt others is why some HutchCC students want to study law enforcement.
Hutchinson sophomore Ashley Garcia is studying to become a police officer.
“I want to help people to the best of my abilities in any situation possible. I want to be there for my community, and the people within it,” said Garcia.
While many of these officers go into the force to help people, no system is without error.
The recent killing of George Floyd has sparked worldwide protests and has brought people’s attention to the need for more police training.
When asked about what training said in relation to how the situation with Floyd played out, Stewart said, “In the attempt to gain compliance or get a person under control would a knee possibly be put on the back and the neck? Sure. The length of time that it’s in there? That’s where it starts to get a little … maybe not.”
Stewart said that in the end, the amount of time the officer can keep their knee on an individual in this position is a judgement call. There is nothing set in stone that gives a specific amount of time in which this act is acceptable.
This brings the discussion to the training the police are given.
“We need more training and being able to recognize mental health issues in people and it’s just time and money,” Stewart said.
However, Stewart said this would require new money to come into the system.
“If we defund the police we are defeating the call for more training because training costs money,” Stewart said.
So with all this being said, what can people do if they are being arrested by a police officer?
“Comply with their orders,” said Stewart. “If they’re handcuffing you, let them handcuff you even if you feel it’s wrong. Do what they ask you to do, so they don’t have to take other actions to take control of you, or feel that you are a threat to them. Then when it’s all said and done, you get to have your day in court, and somewhere down the line, our system is set up that if there’s no need for you to be there, you won’t be there. They’ll let you go.”
Even with this in mind, some people may still feel threatened by the police.
“If they feel comfortable enough, just go up and start a conversation with an officer,” Stewart said.
Stewart said that coming together and having a conversation with all sides is the way to understand each other and move forward.
When asked about the current events surrounding Black Lives Matter, Garcia said, “It has not made me second guess in becoming a police officer.”
Change is never easy, and 2020 has been a year in which this is seen in many different aspects.
No matter what side someone takes in the Black Lives Matter protests and movement, we need to find a way, as a nation, to move toward a better tomorrow.