Students, faculty and community members gathered Friday night in the Anderson Center’s Chamber Hall to debate on policing and the community.
The debate, hosted by the Student Association Multicultural Affairs Office, addressed the resolution, “current police models are effective at fostering support and community relations within the community.”
The affirmative side was comprised of students from the Binghamton Review Thomas Casey, a senior majoring in accounting, and Alex Carros, a senior majoring in psychology. The opposing side was made up of Lenny Herrera, a senior double-majoring in Latin American and Caribbean Area studies and sociology, and Raul Cepin, a senior majoring in Latin American and Caribbean Area studies.
The debate allowed each side an opening statement, rebuttal, question and answer, and closing statement. The debate was moderated by Jeffrey Twitty, the editor-in-chief of Pipe Dream and a senior double-majoring in geography and English, and Jazell Johnson, the assistant director of case management and budgeting in the Dean of Students Office.
Carros presented the affirmative side’s argument, showcasing their support for proactive policing and their opinion, which is that it is an efficient form of policing in communities. Proactive policing uses statistical analysis of high-crime areas to analyze threats of crime before they occur or worsen. According to Carros, the crime rate is down and respect for police is up, but many Americans are still labeling police as militaristic and racist.
“Why are we having this debate? ” Carros said. “Why are we having this discussion? Why are we being called to question at all? The answer is because recently, within the last three years, we have been seeing a narrative within academic institutions, the media and even the president himself saying that cops are not to be trusted — they are too militarized, they are racist. It is unfortunate to say that this a myth.”
The opposing presented a viewpoint against proactive policing, labeling it as discriminatory. Cepin said that experiences of people of color are a valuable aspect of understanding the effect of proactive policing.
“Proactive policing didn’t work for Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland or with all the countless people that have been killed, “ Cepin said. “The black population is not as large as the white population, which means that if we’re looking at numbers, we’re not actually understanding how it impacts the communities.”
When asked about policing within the community, the affirmative side spoke about proactive policing in Downtown Binghamton through the presence of law enforcement in heavily populated student areas. On the opposing side, Herrera criticized the lack of diversity on Binghamton’s New York State University Police, and emphasized the need for greater representation in local police forces.
While the affirmative closed with a snapshot of the current state of crime in the U.S., stating that it is at an all-time low, the opposing closed with a personal narrative relating to the topic. Cepin described how on the night of his high school graduation, officers approached him, forced him to empty his pockets and interrogated him.
“The officers turned one of the most significant days of my life into a humiliating, dehumanizing experience.” Cepin said.
Attendees like Damali Lambert, a senior majoring in English, felt that debating a topic like this was very necessary.
“I felt like this conversation needed to be had,” Lambert said. “And a lot of people felt that with these policing issues, that as black people we don’t allow white people to have a voice. So this showed that we do listen to both sides.”
Bobby Black, the host of the debate and a member of the board of directors for the Citizen Action of New York, said that holding events like these at Binghamton University are integral for understanding what is not only happening across the country, but also in the campus community.
“We see these national events and see them as these isolated cases,” Black said. “All of these issues that are happening nationally are happening locally. Binghamton is really a microcosm for everything that is going on nationally.”