About 40 people filled the Buhler Room of the Lakefront Branch YMCA, 725 Lake Ave., on Wednesday evening as leaders from law enforcement, public safety and education participated in the discussion.
Participating were: Pete Payne, Mount Pleasant Police officer; Carmen Lassiter, Wisconsin public defender; Kevin Brown, former Racine-area educator and current principal at Cherokee Heights Middle School in Madison; R.L. Woods, Racine Police chaplain; Art Howell, Racine Police chief; Tonya Scarver, Racine Police detective; and Eric Prybylski, Racine Police officer.
Ahmad Qawi, chief operations officer at the Racine Family YMCA, moderated the evening’s questions.
When Qawi asked a question about police shootings, Chief Howell told a recent story of how his officers peacefully resolved a situation involving the potential for deadly force.
Howell told the audience the story how two of his police offers, who happened to be white, responded to a shooting on Jan. 21 at the Corinne Owens Transit Center involving two teenagers, who happened to be black – and armed.
“One officer got a gun away from him without force. A second kid put his hand on his gun and could have been shot,” Howell told the audience. “But the officers waited long enough for the kid to throw the gun into the river.”
Qawi also asked why Wisconsin was one of the worst states for raising African-American children. Brown shared his experience as a principal in Racine.
“Wisconsin is a very progressive state with a college on almost every corner; however everyone is not benefiting from it,” Brown said. “When I was vice principal of Horlick High School and I would go to AP courses, which kids can get college credit in high school for free, they were all-white.”
Brown went on to say that everything goes back to education. “If you do not have your education, you cannot even stand in line to become a police officer. You can’t even stand in line to be told ‘no.’ Eventually, all you need is one ‘yes.’ ”