Weber State University police, students and community members gathered to discuss pressing issues like public perception of law enforcement, sexual assault and reporting in the Shepherd Union on Sept. 22 for the third annual Eddie’s Barbecue.
The event was hosted by WSU police and the Office of Access and Diversity. Attendees sat at tables that had at least one officer and conversed on questions given by WSU police Detective Tessie Zaragoza.
“In any culture, in any group or society of people, you’re going to have those bad eggs,” said officer Cameron Kapetanov. “A police department could work years doing great things, getting their name out there, educating and trying to make good, but that one bad circumstance ruins everything.”
The bad egg Kapetanov is referring to is the barrage of videos shown in the media depicting police officers shooting African-Americans. Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Philando Castile and Trayvon Martin are a few of the young men turned into trending topics after they were shot by police officers.
“That’s one of the things we’re trying to overcome with something like (Eddie’s Barbecue). We need to interact with each other,” said Ameedaun Seelye, WSU police dispatcher.
Eddie’s Barbecue began with the idea of gathering police and community members, particularly diverse students, in a comfortable setting where they could get to know each other. Eddie Baxter suggested the idea in a town-hall discussion.
“I never knew something like this would happen from me talking,” Baxter said.
Among other issues, Zaragoza discussed the underreporting of sexual assaults, stating that it is difficult for someone to report because it involves being vulnerable, a long process in the court system and fear of not being believed.
“Right now we’re actually seeing a transition of different interviewing techniques. It’s called trauma-informed interviewing,” Zaragoza said.
This form of interviewing makes it so when there is no evidence in the case besides the recollection of the victim, law enforcement can identify when an individual has gone through trauma and use it as evidence in the case. These cases are more likely to be picked up and prosecuted.
The message WSU police pushed throughout the event was “educate first, enforce second.” Campus police shared the negative reactions they receive when they enter a room but assure their purpose is not to hand out tickets, but to teach the laws.
Monique Ho Ching, WSU freshman and member of the WSU Pacific Islander club, attended the event because she felt uncomfortable around the topic of police. She wanted to personally talk to WSU officers and get to know them.
Christian Phomsouvanh, WSU junior and chair of the Asian Students Involvement Association, attended because he wanted to support the multicultural groups on campus and create unity.
Both Phomsouvanh and Ho Ching left the event comfortable and willing to be open with campus police. Kapetanov was the officer they talked with throughout the event, and he showed interest in attending future events their clubs held.
Baxter said WSU police do a good job hosting the event, but he wants students to be more involved in future Eddie’s Barbecues to help push for tougher discussions and a bigger sense of community between the police and Ogden city.