KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Austin East High School in Knoxville hosted a school and community forum Wednesday night to engage and educate about the community’s perception of law enforcement.
The event, called “Straight Talk: Man to Man,” involved traffic stops with young African-American men and women playing the role of the officer while officers portrayed the subjects of the traffic stop.
“What we thought is we’ll put the shoes on their feet. Let’s put them in the driver’s seat of the police car. Let them do the approach to the car and see how difficult it is,” said Knoxville Police Department Chief David Rausch.
Rausch said he wanted the students to learn that police officers are having the same psychological response as the person behind the wheel of the car.
“Where you know your stomach starts to get in knots, your hands start to sweat, your breathing starts getting rapid. That same psychological response is happening to the officer when they turn those lights on because they don’t know what they’re approaching,” said Rausch.
The exercise was followed by a roundtable discussion between the students and the officers about the lessons learned. The event is the first of two scheduled events hosted by Austin East along with KPD as part of the school’s Black History Month celebration. The second event, a combined music and dance performance, will be held on March 8. KPD will return to Austin East on Thursday to learn some dance moves from the performing arts class.