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COMMENTARY: North Las Vegas police should apologize to minority students for actions on UNLV campus

In response to the Dec. 3 column by Victor Joecks, “UNLV Black Lives Matter students owe apology to North Las Vegas cops,” I pose these questions: Do the concerns and values of minority communities matter? Put another way, do #BlackFeelingsMatter?

There is a major lesson to be learned from the recent incident involving the training exercise North Las Vegas police conducted on UNLV’s campus.

On Nov. 28, the UNLV #BlackLivesMatter organization put on an “I Imagine” spoken word and poetry event as part of Awareness Week. Shortly after the event ended, seven North Las Vegas officers, riding motorcycles, drove around the reserved space of the event, weaving within and throughout the seating area and platform.

North Las Vegas police officials stated this was a training exercise. However, neither the UNLV administration nor the UNLV Police Department was aware this training exercise was taking place on school property. This has resulted in an uproar from minority students at the university who are concerned — and rightfully so — that this might have been an attempt to intimidate minority students.

UNLV President Len Jessup issued a letter to the public requesting an apology and explanation from the North Las Vegas Police Department. Students are also requesting an apology from the department because the presence of the officers made them feel unsafe. The department has yet to comply with either request.

It is not the place of anyone to determine the legitimacy of anyone’s concerns. A police department or journalist is no exception. However, that is what appears to be the case here. Regardless of whether you believe the North Las Vegas police training was an indirect way of intimidating students or not, one thing remains constant — the students felt concerned, unsafe and threatened.

That does not mean the North Las Vegas police intended to intimidate, but a side effect of their actions was that the students became concerned for their safety and protection. An apology for making the students question their safety is completely warranted and reasonable. Doing so would not impute any notions of malice or ill will on the department’s behalf. Rather, it would demonstrate the department’s commitment to a maintaining an enduring relationship with minatory communities.

Unfortunately, the delay and reluctance to issue an apology to students and the university gives many member of the Southern Nevada community, including myself, cause for pause, and begs one to question the actual intentions of the department and these officers.

Apologizing for unintended results is a part of life. We all do it (well, most of us do). Some more than others, but all the same, as decent citizens, we find ourselves apologizing for the way we make others feel all the time. Why? It is because we value the relationship with the individual we offended.

Given this common, underlying practice, I wonder if the North Las Vegas police value their relationship with minority students and communities.

The department’s website states its vision is to promote community partnerships. However, how can these partnerships be promoted when there seems to be a disregard for the values and concerns of minority students? Could it be that the concerns of the minority community are not a priority or a major concern for the department?

These are all valid and reasonable questions that many members of the Southern Nevada community — not just the #BlackLiveMatter student leaders — share. They are why I firmly disagree with the Mr. Joecks’ position that students should apologize for demanding an apology from the department. That attitude and position shows a clear and utter disregard for the values and concerns of students as well as demonstrates a failure to acknowledge the North Las Vegas department’s violation of its vision to promote community partnerships.

It has been several days since the incident, and the North Las Vegas Police Department has yet to acknowledge that the concerns of minority communities are valued and are considered a priority. Rather than call out students for voicing their concerns, it is time we turn our attention to the North Las Vegas police, who should issue a public apology, thus taking the position that the feelings, concerns and contributions of minority communities matter. Doing so would be the first step to effectuating positive change and promoting stronger community partnerships between law enforcement and minority communities.

Caleb Green is a UNLV alumni and president of the Black Law Students Association chapter at UNLV’s William S. Boyd School of Law.

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