Straight Up: Urban Voice Spring 2015
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Senior Courtney Edwards – From the Heart Christian School, Suitland, MD
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The advent of social media provides virtually instant access to events and happenings just about anywhere. As a result, more and more incidents of police brutality in the United States have been on display. Straight Up: Urban Voice senior Courtney Edwards of From the Heart Christian School in Suitland, Maryland reports that despite the plethora of negative images and stories involving law enforcement, not all police are demonstrating bad behavior.
In recent years police brutality has been a hot topic in the media. The Washington Post reports that 1 in 6 people were unarmed and two-thirds of the fatalities involved either African Americans or Hispanics. 12-year-old Tamir Rice of Cleveland, Ohio, 19-year-old Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri and 50-year-old Walter Scott of North Charleston, South Carolina, all African-American, were shot … 25-year-old Freddie Gray of Baltimore, Maryland also African-American, suffered a spinal cord injury and died while in police custody.. In Staten Island, New York another African-American, 43-year-old Eric Garner was choked … and the list goes on … but the public is less familiar with how the police are affected by each of these situations.
“We grieve we feel, we get upset, we cry. You know it’s not just the family that suffers. You were raised not to take a life. Your parents, the Bible don’t take a life, yet you’ve had to take someone’s life. That’s something that never goes away.”
Bobbie Padget is the Co-founder and Vice President of United for Blue and the wife of a Prince Georges County policeman. She notes most officers follow the law…
“There are over 900,000 police officers in this country. They don’t want bad officers any more than we as citizens want bad officers. They want them in jail just as much as you know anyone else.”
United for Blue, works to bridge the gap between communities and police.
“One of the things that we’ve done is a thank you card program which is we want citizens and we want students in school to send thank you notes to the officers so that we can show all these officers they are cared for and appreciated.”
Because police work can be dangerous. On occasion, officers risk their lives, often times for strangers. “Officer Down Memorial Page” reports 54 police deaths in the line of duty so far this year.
“Our job is to protect and serve the community.”
Montgomery County Maryland Police Department detective William Peacock explains his take on how the media has influenced the public’s reactions to police brutality.
“I believe the media has gone overboard and their interpretations of the events that are going on and in many cases they’ve actually helped to fuel fires that were small and became just way out of proportion based on wrong information.”
Peacock adds the stories have influenced people’s opinions, and these opinions have helped to shape negative attitudes. The numerous incidents have contributed to many residents distrust of police.
“I would say that it’s going to be necessary that everybody takes time to meet with one another. Ok. And that, it’s not only the police going after the community, but the community can come on down to the police station and stop in and get to know their community police officers.”
Many citizens and law enforcement suggest the use of body cameras worn by police to help curb the violence.
President Obama Requests Funds for Police Body Cameras
Some police departments already have incorporated the technology. It is yet to be seen if President Obama’s proposal will be implemented nationwide.
Sophomore Lila Bromberg – The Field School, Washington, DC
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Expansion of Washington, DC’s metro rail system is in question. A proposal for the Purple Line, which will run between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties is being considered. One of the areas impacted will be the Capital Crescent trail. It is a shared use, off road trail spanning Georgetown in Washington, DC to Silver Spring, Maryland. Straight Up: Urban Voice sophomore Lila Bromberg of The Field School in Washington, DC reports some Capital Crescent trail-users and nearby residents are concerned about disruption to the public path…
“Hogan Kill the Purple Line!”
Capital Crescent Trail map
Chevy Chase resident Marsha Francis, who lives along Capital Crescent trail, is clearly one of the opponents of the Purple Line proposal. Talks to construct the new line have been underway since the early 2000s. It would be 16-miles of track and run from Bethesda to New Carrollton, Maryland, connecting the Red, Green, and Orange lines. While some residents are concerned about the hefty price tag, others are worried about the disturbance and environmental damage the addition will cause to the Capital Crescent Trail.
“You’re going to have a train and a pathway next to it with- (long pause, can edit out) the renderings that MTA have come out with show a little green strip in between, maybe some plantings, but the way that it’s been described as you couldn’t have any overhanging trees, so all the trees have to go”
Ajay Bhatt is the president of the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail organization. It is one of the groups opposing the purple line proposal. He says the group’s main concern is keeping the trail, commonly used for biking, walking and running, intact for generations to come.
Capital Crescent Trail
“So certainly we are advocating for preserving this as a park. It’s frustrating to think about the possibility of it all being sacrificed for a project that I don’t think is well thought out and I don’t think is worth the money, especially when there are other things that we can do with that money for transit.”
Among some of Bhatt’s suggestions are an improved bus system and expansion of Capital Bike Share. On the flip side, proponents for the Purple Line argue that it will create a more efficient transit system and encourage economic development. Purple Line Now representatives were not available for an interview, but the group’s website claims that the light rail will decrease travel time significantly for tens of thousands of transit riders and create thousands of jobs. Friends of The Capital Crescent trail’s Ajay Bhatt says that’s not enough, and so the group is taking legal action.
“We’ve sent a letter of intent to sue the state of Maryland, and at the same time just recently the state, MTA has notified the court that they plan to join the Fish and Wildlife Service and the FDA as a defendant in our legal case against FDA and Fish and Wildlife Service.”
The legal case could play into Governor Hogan’s decision. He has postponed an announcement that originally was expected in May, keeping proponents and opponents of the Purple Line in suspense.
Freshman Heleena Aseefa, W.T. Woodson – Fairfax, VA
World Police & Fire Games
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This year’s host of the International Police and Fire Games is Fairfax, Virginia. The games provide a venue for police, law enforcement, firefighters and first responders from all over the world to compete. For many, the long preparation beforehand is just as important as the games. Straight: Urban Voice freshman Heleena Assefa of W.T Woodson High School in Fairfax tells us the games also promote unity and respect.
For Second Lieutenant Tony Shobe using the treadmill is part of a well-orchestrated routine.
“I run 2 to 3 days a week. I do sprints another day of the week, and it’s all in preparation for these games.”
Shobe is competing in Softball with his colleagues from the Sherriff’s office in Fairfax County, Virginia. He’s not only participating as an athlete, however…
“I’m also the director of sports for the world police and fire games, specifically Fairfax 2015.”
And it’s been a four year project for him with 61 different sports, 53 different venues, 10,000 athletes and 4,000 volunteers, coordinating the games is a massive undertaking.
“ So, sports, is one big part of it, but the transportation piece, the medical piece, the food and beverage piece, the logistics piece. … (butt cut) I mean this is going to be a once in a lifetime event, in Fairfax county.”
Not only has Shobe seen a shift in the community, he’s also noticed change in his colleagues at the Sheriff’s office.
“I’ve seen an up – tick in the people we have here in our weight room here in the sheriff’s office. We’ve talked to competitors in Fairfax County here that are… that really… they’ve pumped up their training to prepare for these games.”
Among those colleagues is Sergeant Shaun Timothy. Timothy will be competing in the swim portion of the Games. After more than a decade out of the pool, Timothy welcomed the chance to dive back in the water
“I hadn’t been in a competitive atmosphere in 15 years, so me getting back in the water and on the blocks and being prepared to race another individual in that setting… it was a big step for me.”
Timothy is completing 10 hours of training a week on his own time, both in the pool…and in the gym…
He says that the 10 hours of training is well worth it.
“It goes from city to city all across the world and now it’s in our backyard and it’s a fantastic opportunity.”Deputy Adam Ushramski, Deputy Davis, Sergeant Barr, Sheriff Stacy Kincaid, Deputy Chris Loftis, P.F.C Luwin
Fellow competitor Deputy Adam Ushramaski of the Fairfax county Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard shares that sentiment
“I would say that the biggest thing that I would like to gain and I’m sure a lot of other competitors would like to gain is just the opportunity to compete as an Olympic athlete. … with it being in our hometown now we all have the opportunity to call ourselves an Olympic athlete.”
Honor Guard is one of the many events athletes can choose to compete in. Deputy Chris Loftis will be representing Fairfax in the Honor Guard competition
“As far as training goes it’s long and it’s stressful and it is physically taxing but there’s an end goal in sight and that’s obviously being one of the top teams that competes in the competition and to represent Fairfax well.”
Aside from the intense training and grueling competition, these games work to promote physical fitness within law enforcement. Sergeant Timothy notes what resonates with him is the opportunity to celebrate dedication and sacrifice in public security.
“You see how many people shake hands before and after. And that’s what it’s about.”
The International Police and Fire games will commence on June 26th 2015.
There are roughly 34 million adults in the United States who claim no religious denomination. Straight Up: Urban Voice junior Hannah Cuthbertson of Kettle Run High in Warrenton, VA, spent some time hanging around a few thousand atheists rallying on the National Mall this spring to find out why organized religion turns them off. Some say, their conversion occurred after reading the Bible.
All private schools claim to be champions of diversity. Some make valient efforts. Some are successful, most are not. Public school figures for Maryland show a diversity rate of about 50 percent. Most independent schools, such as the Park School of Baltimore, can’t seem to surpass 30 percent. Straight Up: Urban Voice’s Nathan Randrianarvielo, who is a senior at the Park School, explores why.
With college education costs skyrocketing, some talented basketball players are choosing to stay an extra year in high school. They want to improve their game and stand out against younger, less experienced players so they can land a full scholarship. Straight Up: Urban Voice junior, Breana Bacon, of Elizabeth Seton High reports on these college hopefuls, who are making a huge sacrifice.
Everyone knows football is a rough and tumble sport. However, eyebrows are raised when we learn that players are paid a “bounty” to brutally take out the competition. Straight Up Urban Voice senior Connor Murray from Osbourn Park High in Manassas, VA, reports bounty programs can turn up in high school football and sometimes exposure starts even earlier…