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Friday 6th of December 2019

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Through Theatre, Justice-Involved Youth and CPD Recruits Put Themselves In One Another’s Shoes

Tuesday 27th of August 2019 | North America, United States
Chicago Defender
News

“Why don’t I have any real power?” sang dozens of Chicago Police recruits and justice-involved youth in a chorus. Facing them, another group of young adults and recruits chanted, “Protect and serve! Protect and serve!”

It’s a scene that happens once a month — not on the streets but in the confines of a hall. On Tuesday, a room in the Chicago History Museum was packed with recruits dressed in powder blue. Around 50 of them and justice-involved youth from Storycatchers Theatre participated in a workshop where they reversed roles and acted out common scenarios.

Amidst problems that plague the Chicago Police Department like the code of silenceand systemic abusesfound by the DOJ in 2017, Storycatchers Theatre is trying to help repair the fractured relationship between the police and black and brown communities. The exercise aimed to “get the power structures to a level playing field” and create a safe environment for youth and recruits to learn from one another, said Storycatchers Theatre’s Executive Director Priya Shah, who was dressed in the same shade of blue as the recruits.

Storycatchers Theatre is a nonprofit that employs justice-involved youth to tell their stories.

“We hope that [the workshop] gives the young people a voice [and] it builds empathy within the recruits, so that they can see things from other people’s perspective and a different lens,” said Tim Crawford, an officer from the Chicago Police Department’s Office of Restorative Justice Strategies.

The workshop consisted of two scenes. In the first scenario, some recruits and a justice-involved youth acted as civilians driving along the highway on a cold night, while one justice-involved youth and a recruit played the role of aggressive police officers. The rest of the recruits and Storycatchers members were part of the ensemble.

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