Meet the Heat confronts black relationships with campus police


A few students share their previous negative experinces with the cops and how that affected their preception of them. Photo credit: Julian Mendoza

Growing up, many people in the group Meet the Heat were afraid and skeptical of law enforcement. Despite their past experiences, they are working with University Police to start a relationship.

Ka Lynda Watts has dealt with multiple negative encounters from police. The police ignored her when someone drove by and threw something at her, she said, and she had been yelled at for no reason when she was out on another occasion.

Watts was also present at the Justice for Desmond Phillips rally back in October. She participated when the group marched across town demanding justice for David Phillip’s son Desmond, who was killed by police when he had a mental episode in his home.

(From left to right) Police Chief John Reid, Chris Nicodemus and Ka Lynda Watts having a discussion on how police can be more approachable. Photo credit: Julian Mendoza

Others from her group shared the experiences they had with the police and the reason why they are afraid to be near them as people of color.

Unity Sistas, and Omega Psi Phi centered the event around community building between black students and Chico State police.

Despite some students’ differences with law enforcement, they still wanted to build a connection with campus police instead of not having their voice heard.

After everyone had introduced themselves in an icebreaker exercise, each student rated how safe they felt on campus from one to 10. Most people felt between three to six.

The police sat on while side on the room while everybody else sat across from them. Photo credit: Julian Mendoza

The conversation would go back and forth between the two parties. As officers shared their sympathy and understanding for students, they were able to understand each other a bit more.

It’s the reason Watts came to meet the heat, she said. She pays for tuition and understands that her previous negative experiences were from the Chico Police Department.

Watts let University Police know how her previous encounters with police went.

“I feel like being in this environment, it really helped me be able to be open about my experiences for them to know my experiences and what ways that we can healed, to mend from my traumatic experiences and to be supportive,” she said.

Meet the Heat was a byproduct of an incident last semester where rumors of a man on campus asking suspicious questions spread across social media. Daniel Darrington was the suspect — three years ago he was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon at a local movie theater.

A few students share their previous negative experinces with the cops and how that affected their preception of them. Photo credit: Julian Mendoza

After students felt unsafe, a safety summit was held where students expressed their concerns with how the university responded to the situation and the time it took for them to release information.

Since then, there has been a plan in the work so both UPD and students of color can maintain a better relationship, instead of having students being skeptical of their position. Some students may still be skeptical, according to Cheif Reid, and he said he understands that there may still be some after this meeting. But he does want to try and build a connection instead of ruining it.

“The question is, do you keep that chasm?” Reid said.

“Do you keep that canyon or do you build bridges? This is a way to begin to do that. Skepticism may still be there. Mistrust may be there. ‘Not sure,’ may still be there. But it’s a start.”

Julian Mendoza can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JulianMTheOrion.