LIMA — To curb the gun violence that has plagued the city of Lima in recent months, Vickie Shurelds said young people must make a stand.
That’s why she organized the Ceasefire Lima Youth-led Summit, which was held Saturday in Lima City Council Chambers.
“As adults, we have a tendency to think we already know the answer,” Shurelds said. “But this is the 21st century, so whatever I experienced is not what they’re experiencing now. That’s why we need to listen to them and find out what it’s like for them every day, and then give value to their interpretation of what’s going on.”
A dozen young people attended the summit, along with Lima City councilors Derry Glenn, C. Ann Miles and Teresa Adams. Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin was also present, answering questions about police protocol, how to act appropriately during a traffic stop, and what rights individuals possess when they are contacted by police.
Shurelds said it was important for the community’s youth to establish an open dialogue with police officers, a sentiment with which Martin agreed.
“It’s all a part of relationship-building,” Martin said. “If we’re going to have trust in the community we serve, we can’t do that by being separate from them. The only way you’re able to really develop that relationship is by spending time together.”
One of the main topics discussed at the summit was traffic stops, and how police and residents should behave in these situations.
“These kids want to know how I can explain my point of view without being shot,” Shurelds said. “We have not done a good job thus far of explaining to them how they’re supposed to survive in that situation.”
Since obtaining her driver license in July, 16-year-old Nakiya Petty said her No.1 fear is being pulled over by police officers.
“I didn’t know how I should pull my license out without them thinking I’m reaching for a weapon,” said Nakiya, a Lima Central Catholic student who attended the summit. “No one knows what’s going on in their minds, and they [police officers] don’t know what’s in our minds.”
In talking with Martin, Nakiya said she gained a better understanding of how to react in this situation.
“I learned how to speak to them, how to keep my composure and remain calm, stuff like that,” she said. “I feel a lot better about it now.”
Major Shurelds, a 26-year-old who recently returned to Lima, said he attended the summit to gain perspective on how the Lima Police Department handles certain situations, such as traffic stops and on-station complaints. He said he hopes Martin and his officers increase their community outreach efforts.
“It’s not just about that authoritative relationship — you have to ask people, ‘what don’t you like about cops?’ Or, ‘what makes you not trust me?’ he said. “When you have those one-on-one conversations, you can see where people are coming from.”
The college student added that he hopes the open dialogue created by the youth summit leads to positive changes in the police-community relationship.
“What we need to do is take this energy and do something positive with it,” he said.
Vickie Shurelds said several programs are in the works that would address these issues. The Peace Learning Center Program aims to make Lima “a peaceful community,” she said. Another initiative, Project Youthbuild, will teach communication and conflict resolution skills.
“These are my ideas, but we will adjust based on what the young people want to do,” she said.
For Nakiya, she hopes the inaugural youth summit will lead to more young people becoming involved in police-community relations.
“We need to bring more people in and make them engaged in what’s going on,” she said. “We want people to understand there are some young people, and older people, that are trying to make a change here in the Lima community.”
Vickie Shurelds said she anticipates the second youth summit will be held within the next four to six weeks.
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima.