Last Thursday, I went to one of my favorites event at Ohio State so far. I had heard of the student organization Sustained Dialogue at the beginning of the year, and I was intrigued by its mission of bringing opposing voices together for a constructive conversation. One of their biggest events is the annual police dialogue, where students who may have varying opinions of police get to speak openly with members of the Columbus police force. When I went to the police dialogue, I was expecting to hear from two or three police officers who would stand in the front of the room, talk about their job, and then take questions from the audience at the end. It turned out to be much more than that.
The first good sign for the police dialogue was the food when I walked in. Sustained Dialogue had gone all out to provide a delicious make-your-own-tortilla dinner, along with salad, potatoes and cake. I was also given a specific table to sit at when I registered, and when I found my table, table moderators and a policeman were already seated. I quickly realized that the speech to the masses I anticipated was actually going to be an intimate conversation between students, police and other members of the OSU community. The eight people at my table were of diverse backgrounds and ages, and we all spoke candidly about our own experience with police and how we thought race, the media and guns played into the law enforcement profession. Even though there was disagreement at times, we all remained respectful and understanding, and it seemed like that matched the atmosphere from the tables around us as well.
I loved getting to hear directly from police who work very close to where I live, and it was eye-opening to find about some of the struggles of their job, like having to rely only on people’s descriptions of a suspicious person and having to be on the scene for children and women from abusive homes. It is rare for me and other college students to get to speak so frankly with law enforcement officials, and I cannot recommend enough that anyone able to go attends next time.
Just some of the tables at the Police Dialogue. I’m circled in the middle of the picture.