Race, Policing and Community Trauma​

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Topic 3 - on thursday, october 22

Building Community Trust: Race, Policing and Community Trauma​

A conversation with:

  • Dr. Letitia Dzirasa – Commissioner of Health, Baltimore City Health Department
  • Michael S. Harrison – Commissioner, Baltimore City Police Department
  • Melissa R. Hyatt – Chief, Baltimore County Police Department
  • Caryn York – CEO, Job Opportunities Task Force (JOTF)
  • Kevin Lindamood – President & CEO, Health Care for the Homeless


Together we explored these questions

  • Why are racial disparities in policing so difficult to confront and address?
  • How can we reimagine law enforcement in a way that is healing instead of punitive for our most distressed populations?
  • What are the challenges with narratives around 'Black-on-Black' crime and what are our individual, collective and institutional responsibilities to address and possibly change them?
  • How does vicarious traumatization affect how law enforcement officers and communities of color engage one another?

From our panelists

"We know there are significant health implications to acute and chronic exposure to trauma over the course of one’s life – whether you’re police or you’re being policed. And in communities of color, as we continue to see people being killed nationally, it’s a form of re-traumatization for many of us. I think people are generally afraid on both sides and it’s hard to think about being vulnerable." - Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa

"To me, 'defund the police' means taking money from the police and putting it to other services that are best served by other professionals. I support that. I do not support taking it from the police at this moment to a system that’s not yet built...I support a transition period where we can find who can best handle a particular service whether it’s mental illness or homelessness." - Police Commissioner Michael Harrison  

"There’s still a lot of work to do. We’re still experiencing fallout from our collective inability as a society to resolve race relation issues. We need to get to the point of truly knowing and understanding one another—our community, our police officers." - Chief of Police Melissa Hyatt 

"That whole 'Black-on-Black crime' narrative is trash—besides the fact that white-on-white crime also exists to the same extent. We’re talking about a concept that allows us to perpetuate inherent black criminality. What should be asked instead is what is your history of socialization when it comes to Black people?...They’re not inherently violent. They’re responding to violence – economic violence, emotional violence, physical violence. This is dysfunction, which leads to crime and violence. We need to dismantle this environment of violence." - CEO Caryn York


Learn more about our panelists:

Letitia Dzirasa, MD - Commissioner of Health, Baltimore City Health Department

Dr. Letitia Dzirasa joined Baltimore City government as the Commissioner of Health in March 2019. Dr. Dzirasa believes that equitable care is a basic right for all and tirelessly advocates for programs that support the overall health and wellbeing of all Baltimore City residents. Prior to joining the Health Department, Dr. Dzirasa worked as the Health Innovation Officer at Fearless Solutions (Fearless), a Baltimore based digital services firm, and has close clinical ties to the Baltimore community. She trained at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in pediatrics and worked as Medical Director for School Based Health and Quality at Baltimore Medical System from 2013-2016. Dr. Dzirasa holds a B.S. from University of Maryland, Baltimore County in Biological Sciences and graduated from Meharry Medical College, Summa Cum Laude, in 2007.

michael S. Harrison - commissioner, Baltimore city police department

Michael S. Harrison was sworn in as the Baltimore Police Department’s 41st Commissioner in March 2019. Before coming to Baltimore, he served the New Orleans Police Department for nearly three decades. Commissioner Harrison has been instrumental in the development, implementation and assessment of community policing programs that have led to demonstrably increased partnership and collaboration. He has considerable experience in navigating a policing agency through a federal consent decree, having led two large police departments under such oversight. Commissioner Harrison earned his Masters of Criminal Justice from Loyola University New Orleans. He is also a graduate of the Senior Management Institute for Police, Northwestern University's School of Police Staff and Command, and the F.B.I’s National Executive Institute. As a firm believer in civic duty, he honorably served eight years with the Louisiana Air National Guard.

Melissa R. Hyatt - chief, baltimore county police department

Chief Melissa R. Hyatt was sworn in as Baltimore County’s 14th Police Chief on June 17, 2019, bringing with her over 20 years of law enforcement experience with the Baltimore Police Department. While at the Baltimore Police Department, her assignments included Chief of Staff to the Police Commissioner, Chief of Patrol, and Chief of the Special Operations Division. In 2018, she retired at the rank of Colonel to accept a position of Vice President for Security for Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Medicine. Hyatt holds a Masters in Management Degree from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Delaware. She is a graduate of the 250th session of the FBI National Academy, and the Major Cities Chiefs Police Executive Leadership Institute (PELI). She has been honored with numerous awards and citations, and holds memberships in several professional organizations, including the Major Cities Chiefs Association. Chief Hyatt currently serves as the 1 st Vice President for the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association. She is an enthusiastic supporter of Special Olympics and youth programs throughout the region. Chief Melissa R. Hyatt is a lifelong resident of Baltimore County.

caryn york - chief executive officer, job opportunity task force (jotf)

Caryn York is Chief Executive Officer of JOTF, a statewide nonprofit that promotes policies and programs to help low-wage workers advance to high-wage jobs. Caryn is JOTF’s youngest CEO and the first African American female to lead the 23-year organization. Caryn works tirelessly to encourage policymakers and stakeholders to support policies and programs that eliminate educational and employment barriers and facilitate the successful entry, or re-entry, of low-wage workers. She has been instrumental in leading state and local policy reform efforts including, ‘Ban the Box’ on job and college applications, expansion of criminal record expungement and shielding laws, postsecondary access and affordability, and reducing the impact of incarceration on working families through the Maryland Justice Reinvestment Act and statewide bail reform. Caryn received a BA in International Studies from Washington College, and has worked within state and local politics for over 10 years.


moderator: Kevin lindamood, MSW - President & CEO, Health care for the homeless

Kevin Lindamood has worked for over 20 years at the intersection of homelessness and health. He has been an outreach worker, clinician, community organizer, advocate—and since 2011, the CEO of Maryland’s leading provider of integrated health services for people experiencing homelessness. Lindamood serves on Maryland’s Interagency Council on Homelessness, as the Governance Committee Chair for The Journey Home: Baltimore’s Continuum of Care and as the Policy Committee Co-Chair for Behavioral Health Systems Baltimore. He holds an MSW from the University of Michigan, a bachelor’s degree from Valparaiso University and is a graduate of the Greater Baltimore Committee Leadership Program.   

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