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  December 17, 2017

Baltimore Students Offer Solutions to Stop Police Brutality

A 5th grade class in Baltimore has completed an comprehensive research project on the unconstitutional and racist tactics used by Baltimore's police department and have turned their work into solutions they hope will improve how law enforcement interacts with the community
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TAYA GRAHAM: This is Taya Graham reporting for The Real News Network in Southwest Baltimore. When we talk about police brutality, we usually are discussing adults but we rarely talk about the impact it has on our children.

ALBERT PHILLIPS: I believe activism starts as early as they're born. And I think it's important to instill in our youth that tradition now, instead of waiting until they become adults.

TAYA GRAHAM: For the children of Baltimore, there are many challenges that their counterparts in wealthier communities don't face. Growing up in a city struggling with poverty and violence. And trying to learn in a school system that is chronically underfunded.

KYRA: I think there is a lot wrong with police brutality because it causes people to die or get really hurt.

TAYA GRAHAM: But there is another topic fifth graders at the Southwest Baltimore charter school have to confront: police brutality.

AMIR: In Expedition class, we have to learn about police brutality and activists that are trying to end police brutality. An example of an activist is Ms. Tawanda Jones, who is the founder of West Wednesdays which is a protest in Baltimore to raise awareness about police brutality.

TAYA GRAHAM: Baltimore's police department is currently under consent decree for using racist and unconstitutional tactics, which is why the students here studied the problem, not just to learn about it, but to seek solutions.

EMILY: My second solution is that we can talk with citizens to see what they need. My third solution is that we could contact our representatives and ask what they're doing to stop police brutality. If we could contact a representative like you and have a conversation with you and other leaders, we could discuss our problems and our needs.

TAYA GRAHAM: They visited museums and spoke with activists.

ANYA: They were also learning about how certain individuals such as John Lewis and Ida B. Wells, how they resisted oppression and created change.

TAYA GRAHAM: They poured over the Justice Department's report and studied cases from the past.

ANIS: According to the US Department of Justice Investigation, about 150,000 police stops were in two small African American districts. This is 44% of all stops in Baltimore. This makes me feel disgusted that people are being treated differently because of their skin color.

TAYA GRAHAM: And they applied their findings to recommendations which they are sending to the police department.

ANYA: My first solution to police brutality is to enforce a test that identifies racist police officers. There should be tests like this to see if that person is fit to be a cop. Also, this can help eliminate or reduce police brutality because then there would be less racist cops policing our city.

AMIR: My third and final police reform idea is for police officers to stop criminalizing everything. If police officers criminalize the small things, they might miss the big, dangerous or harmful stuff. Therefore, pedophiles and murderers can get away.

TAYA GRAHAM: For their teacher, the process of learning the history of police brutality has been empowering.

ALBERT PHILLIPS: It's been beautiful to see. Because they've grown so much. They can see from our step one of the writing process when they just had scattered ideas, to them creating these letters. They can see the growth. And they became more and more interested. "Mr. Albert, but what about this?" They had a lot of questions. So, it caused me to do even more research. Questions that I didn't know the answer to, I would say, "Hey. Here's a laptop. You find it."

TAYA GRAHAM: A sentiment echoed by the students.

ANIS: Police brutality in Baltimore must end. Police should be held accountable for their actions and get proper training if needed, and their income should be lowered if they brutalize.

TAYA GRAHAM: Who hope their suggestions will make life better for everyone.

ANIS: I wrote this letter for you to follow. You're probably going to say, "I'm not listening to a fifth grader." Well, actually anyone can make a difference. Even kids.

TAYA GRAHAM: This is Taya Graham and Stephen Janis reporting for the Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland.


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