November 21, 2014

Hyde Park H.S. students to document racial profiling

Students from Hyde Park High School will share their stories of racial profiling in regard to the police with the help of a grant from the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference (HPKCC). Stemming from a community forum on the role of the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) last month, the students will work with the local newspaper, the Hyde Park Herald, to record and compile anecdotes of their experiences.

Gabriel Piemonte, editor of the Herald, came up with the idea for the project and will spearhead the effort. He will work with the Kenwood Academy journalism program to teach 20 students videography and interview skills so that they can interview their peers about their experiences with the UCPD.

The project is an outgrowth of the ongoing discussion about the role of the UCPD in Hyde Park, especially in off-campus areas. A number of community members believe that many complaints against UCPD officers are not reported because of the department’s current reporting system, where complaints are reviewed by a designated UCPD officer.

After attending a committee forum on the role of the UCPD a few weeks ago, Piemonte thought that the discussion lacked stories and input from students. “No one was speaking who was under 25. [Piemonte] said we really need to get stories from students who have actually experienced this,” George Rumsey, president of HPKCC, said.

The project intends to collect students’ experiences with the UCPD and show that these incidents of racial profiling are underreported, which will hopefully raise community awareness about the issue, particularly as it relates to high school students. It also aims to educate and empower community teenagers and give a voice to their experiences with the UCPD.

“Part of the problem is that many of the community teenagers do not feel comfortable speaking in public about [racial profiling]. They feel that they’ll be targeted in the future. They do not want to identify themselves publicly,” Rumsey said.

The HPKCC awarded a $1,500 grant to the project. $1,000 will go to the student videographers to conduct peer-to-peer interviews. $500 will go to a professional videographer to record interview with UCPD officers, State Representative Barbara Flynn Currie, an HPKCC member, and other community leaders who will provide background information for the project.

“[In addition] there will be added sections educating teens about when and how to file police reports, how to behave and talk when stopped by police, and also educational materials aimed at parents about how to support their kids whenever there needs to be a report,” Rumsey said.

Piemonte plans to begin the youth interviews over Thanksgiving break. He hopes to start releasing some interviews on the Hyde Park Herald’s website for educational use by schools and community groups by mid-December. The HPKCC also plans to hold a community screening of the film as a fundraising event for the conference once the project is finished.