‘Policing human rights’ is the theme of human rights conference

Multi-session event to take place at Olympic College Dec. 6

Recognizing individual human rights while understanding the need to police those rights is the theme of this year’s Kitsap County Council for Human Rights conference on Friday, Dec. 6.

“Policing Human Rights — Our Bodies, Our Spaces, Our Cultures” is being presented at Olympic College in Bremerton. This daylong program features 20 interactive programs designed to explore how human rights interact with police work and how the rights of people sometimes come into conflict with the work of law enforcement. Organizers say they hope people come away from the conference with stronger skills to advocate for human rights.

“The intersection of human rights and policing is a topic on people’s minds now,” organizer Airen Lydick said.

The topic this year was determined after reviewing input from 40 local nonprofit groups and churches, Lydick said.

“Homelessness, community relationships with police and the recent police shooting incident in Poulsbo were all considered in determining the program’s theme,” he said.

Programs will not be conventional lectures, Lydick said. Instead, sessions will promote involvement by attendees.

“There will not be just talking heads. Some sessions will involve facilitated discussions. Others will have feature films followed by discussions,” he said.

Here is a sampling of the scheduled sessions:

“Steps to Building Trust Between Police and Community” will be led by DeVitta Briscoe of the Community Justice Project. In February 2016, Briscoe’s brother Che Taylor was killed by Seattle Police; afterward, she worked on the issue of police reform. The workshop will highlight the work of Not This Time, a grassroots movement to reduce police deadly force and improve police-community relationships.

“Understanding Immigration Policy Changes and Local Impacts” is being presented by the Kitsap Immigrant Assistance Center.

“We will cover impacts over the last three years of court rulings and their effects on the community,” presenter Ray Garrido said. “Basically, it has become more difficult to legally immigrate to the United States and easier for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport individuals.”

The Civil Survival Project will cover “The Origins of Policing in America.” “We will review the history of policing in this county and how we got to the point where the U.S. has 5 percent of the world population, yet 25 percent of the world’s prisoners,” Tarra Simmons said.

Some of the other presentations include:

“Teaching Consent: Tips for Advocating for Yourself and Others,” presented by Planned Parenthood West Sound Teen Council; “Kurdish Culture” by Sheelan Abdulla; “Policing Black Bodies: History of Black Codes, White Supremacy and Racial Terror after Emancipation,” led by Peggi Erickson and Karen Vargas; “The Welcome Home Project: A Human Dignity Re-Entry Model” presented by Port Gamble S’Kallam Tribe; “Building a Welcoming Community: Promoting Equity and Advancing Human Rights,” presented by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights and Kitsap Showing Up for Racial Justice; “Policing Disabled Bodies through Policy and Perception,” by Sheila Northrop; “Biases: We All Have Them,” by Maria Fergus; and, “The Cost of Choice for Human Trafficking Survivors,” by Scarlet Road.

The conference will close with an afternoon plenary panel featuring representatives from several groups who will discuss issues related to policing and relationships with law enforcement.

Nonprofit groups will have information tables where attendees can learn about the services they offer. In past conferences, some participants decided to volunteer for groups that they’d learned about, Lydick said.

The Kitsap County Council for Human Rights, composed of 12 volunteer members, is tasked with educating county officials and the community about human rights issues.

“We keep our ear to the ground to find out about human rights issues,” Lydick said. “The annual conference is the council’s biggest educational event of the year.”

Attendance in recent years has been between 150 and 200 people, he said. Some local schools allow students to attend the conference and a number of social justice organizations also send representatives, he added.

Tickets can be purchased at tinyurl.com/kitsap2019hr. The cost to attend is $40 for adults, $25 for youths (17 and younger). Local businesses can help sponsor the event. Donations will underwrite event costs and can help subsidize tickets for youths to attend. Information on how to sponsor the event can also be found at brownpapertickets.com.

The conference will include a complimentary continental breakfast and lunch. Meals will feature vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free menu items.

The event is sponsored by Olympic College and the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners.

— This article was written by Port Orchard Independent correspondent Mike De Felice.

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