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Science Policy Group at UCLA is ‘Reimagining Safety’ with policing alternatives

A screening of “Reimagining Safety,” a documentary shown by the Science Policy Group at UCLA, is pictured. (Shane Yu/Daily Bruin)

By Catherine Hamilton

April 28, 2023 1:59 p.m.

This post was updated April 30 at 10:24 p.m.

The Science Policy Group at UCLA hosted a screening and panel Wednesday for a documentary exploring evidence-based alternatives to policing.

A crowd of two dozen students and community members watched the “Reimagining Safety” documentary, which included interviews with Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, former LA mayoral candidate Gina Viola, and University of Southern California law professor Jody Armour, as well as other experts.

The film explored various methods to decrease police brutality, such as lessening police’s budgets, reallocating their duties to other entities and removing military tactics and weapons from policing. Evidence-based policy consists of shaping legislation around methods that are proven to have a positive effect in communities, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.

After the screening, SPG co-president Bineh Ndefru moderated the panel, which included many of the film’s featured experts.

“Reimagining Safety” director Matthew Solomon said his inspiration for the documentary came from his years growing up in LA, where he witnessed firsthand the difference in treatment of Black and brown individuals by the police compared to how white people like himself were treated.

“It’s the product of an inquiry of my whole life,” Solomon said. “I always was aware that my friends who didn’t look like me had different lived experiences than I did, and so I was always trying to figure out why that was.”

Nikki Blak, a sociologist, said there is a need to address the way people are socialized to think about the world in order to reform law enforcement.

“We know a belief doesn’t have to be factual or true for someone to believe it, and our actions are the proof of what we believe,” Blak said during the panel. “From my perspective, it is a matter of resocializing people, which is a multi-step, maybe generation process.”

Part of the conversation centered on the vocabulary of defunding the police, which has been criticized by some and is an idea that Gascón pushed back against. Gascón’s policies have received opposition for being soft on crime, and he has survived two recall attempts since his stepping into office in 2020.

During the panel, he said it is important to reallocate current police tasks, such as mental health calls, to other community groups but added that some occurrences will require police attention.

“If your son or daughter is a social worker without a gun, you don’t want to send them to that corner and try to solve somebody that’s actually shooting people,” he said. “We still have about 600 homicides in this country every year. … Those are the realities that we deal with.”

Viola, however, said during the panel that the word “defunding” has only been targeted when it comes to discussing the police budget. However, money will also naturally fall away from the police if government officials take to heart what the community wants to see money allocated toward, she added.

Viola spoke to SPG last year during her mayoral campaign, said Ndefru, who is a doctoral student in materials science and engineering. Viola’s involvement with the documentary led the group to host the event, Ndefru added, as they have a strong focus on evidence-based policy.

SPG co-president Kayla Lim said she hopes the audience took away new perspectives on policing after attending the event.

“I think it’s very common to kind of be in your own little bubble and be friends with people who share very similar values,” Lim said. “It was valuable to hear … people sit down … to have a conversation about having different opinions.”

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Catherine Hamilton | News editor
Hamilton is the 2023-2024 News editor and a Copy staff member. She was previously the 2022-2023 national news and higher education beat editor and a national news contributor. She is also a third-year gender studies and political science student minoring in professional writing.
Hamilton is the 2023-2024 News editor and a Copy staff member. She was previously the 2022-2023 national news and higher education beat editor and a national news contributor. She is also a third-year gender studies and political science student minoring in professional writing.
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