By: Nilo Exar, Staff Writer
Project Unity brought together local police forces with a number of Towson students Saturday, Sept. 26, with the goal of bridging gaps between the TU community and police.
“We’re just here to let them get to see us as people and hopefully break down some of those stereotypes,” TUPD Capt. Karen Johnson said.
Created by the university’s NAACP President, Cambria Conley, in conjunction with other TU student groups, the event kicked off with a lunch where police officers from the TUPD, Baltimore County and Maryland State Police intermingled with students and staff from Towson, as well as some family members in the Towson community.
“We’re all supporting each other, and you’re going through a heartache, that doesn’t mean I can’t feel for you,” SGA Senate President Pro Tempore Omnia Shedid said. “We’re all going to try to understand each other – it’s great to see that we’re all here for each other, together.”
Project Unity offered some friends and family of students and faculty at Towson the chance to come and experience the event.
“I think it’s a good chance for the community to come out and interact with different types of people,” junior Diana Ross said. “All the young people we have here, I think it’s good that children get to come out and see all the fun stuff we have and get a chance to connect with the college students.”
After the lunch, participants moved on to participate in the field activities at the event, from an inflatable obstacle course to a large game of throw-and-catch football. There was also a tug of war game between TUPD and the Baltimore County Police Department – TUPD won.
Then, a dance party began and in a matter of minutes, dozens of people were dancing to some of the popular group dance songs of the past decade.
Students from the Towson University community also echoed that the event was crucial to have, as community relations with police are of utmost importance, especially in Baltimore.
“Our community needs this [and] with the civil unrest that happened in Baltimore earlier in the year, we need to strengthen the bond between Towson students and TUPD and Baltimore County Police Department because at the end of the day, police are there to help us,” Alpha Phi Alpha President Brandon Edwards said. “Even though there are some who do not abide by the law, there are some good ones out there, too, so it’s our obligation to strengthen that bond with them so we have a safe community and a very educated community.”
Towson University has different groups of people and can be seen as a microcosm of the greater community, and Project Unity was seeking for all different groups to find common ground.
“This event was needed… primarily for unifying all factions of what makes up this Towson community, especially when it comes to TUPD and county police,” Black Student Union President Jhustin Paschall said. “I’m pretty sure we had good relations before, but just seeing them interact [with everyone] just makes us feel safe because we know that there is a common communication. We could be doing a million things on a Saturday morning, but everyone woke up and came out … and we’re having nothing but fun.”
All in all, the event helped Towson students put a face to those sworn to protect and serve them, and also helped the police officers get to interact with a portion of the population they’re serving in a relaxed community setting.
“I think we’re getting to see a more human side rather than just the work side of police officers. It’s good to see everybody intermingling like regular people and not with a fear, it seems really natural, everybody is breaking down their walls and barriers,” senior Kiera Harley said.
BCPD Captain Jay Landsman said that Project Unity allowed students and law enforcement to interact outside of professional roles.
“This event today is about developing perspective, developing a relationship between the students and the police that is completely removed from our traditional roles as police,” he said. “So, we want to interact with these students as just people – playing some fun games, dancing and sharing a meal together.”