This is a epilogue to Zero Tolerance for Police Harassment: Summer 2000 South Haven, MI.
Well, summer has come to a close, so here is my analysis of the results of our campaign:
Four meetings were held throughout the summer with representatives of the police department, business owners and the harassed element of the youth populace. It is important to point out exactly which section of the youth populace we represented here, as it was often forgotten during the meetings that we were the ones being harassed without provocation, not the rock throwing, statue destroying, spray painting, obscenity yelling, old person harassing or otherwise evildoing populace.
All sides seemed to get something out of the meetings, though none of us could call it a complete victory, or even a complete understanding. There was a remarkable improvement in police relations on the street. A year or two ago, I'd hear a story a day of some cop saying something derogatory and snide to a kid. This summer, I only heard three. Unfortunately for our case, none of those three involved were willing to push the issue to the chiefs desk in the form of a complaint. But we still consider it a success.
The police got to toss the ball back into the business owner's court, by saying simply 'We aren't going to keep responding to calls if no one is doing anything wrong.' We figured this was a pretty simple statement, and were shocked by how much protest it met. Evidently, as some of the business owners argued, our very presence, though not illegal, should be stopped, as it scares old people away from doing business, and we were 'without purpose' in the downtown, since we weren't there to spend money. No mention was made of how many of the jobs we, being the youth, do in the area, from cash registers to waiting tables to cooking to stocking shelves, or how the ice cream and coffee shops stay in business in the Winter in a Michigan tourist community.
And the business owners got more signs about skateboarding downtown, tightened up some laws, and felt very satisfied when we promised not to break any of the laws we (remember the constituency issue above) weren't breaking in the first place.
All in all, I'm relieved that my little sister and her friends won't have to go through the name calling, unwarranted ticketing and throwing into walls that I and my friends did, though I sometimes wonder how long it will take for rookie cops with real badges to earn will start doing the bidding of bitter shopkeepers looking to lay blame for slumping sales.