Do you ever hear news – like that of officer Patrick McDonald’s being brutally shot to death a few short blocks from Main Campus – and feel as though Temple is some strange oasis in the middle of a war zone?
I do sometimes. And I love Philadelphia. I was born and raised here. It’s not that I grew up in North Philly specifically, but I still have this strange attachment to all parts of the city. In fact, I’ve even developed an affinity for North Philly – North Central, Yorktown, Girard, you name it – because it feels like home now.
What I can’t come to terms with, though, is all of the violence. It seems as if people shoot each other every few days, and I don’t understand it. I’ve always thought of the area surrounding Temple as a community, despite its rough-and-tumble streets. But each day, it gets more and more difficult to believe it.
In response to the shooting of McDonald, a resident of the area near Dauphin and Colorado streets was quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer as saying, “The cops don’t protect us. They protect the students. Let one of them students put their hands on us, the cops wouldn’t do anything. Let something happen to one of those students and the cops would kick our behinds.”
Police are on the streets for a reason, and that is to protect the welfare of everyone, regardless of age, race, status or creed. I don’t buy that police are here just to protect students. That is absurd.
Who knows, maybe coming from a family of a few police officers has created for me this romantic notion of what they’re all about, but I doubt it.
Don’t get me wrong, I would wager that police are perhaps a bit more vigilant when they see a few students walking down the street in North Philly. After all, 32 percent of students at Temple are from out-of-state, and the other 68 percent from Pennsylvania, according to the most recent student profile. Think about yourself and five of your friends. I would guess that the majority of you aren’t from Philadelphia.
So by default, Temple students are less likely to understand the dynamic of the neighborhood in which they’re living. Why shouldn’t police be slightly more vigilant on their behalf? I’m not saying residents don’t deserve the same attention – they absolutely do. I am saying that they are probably less likely to walk into a situation unknowingly and find themselves in a mess they aren’t sure how to get out of.
Being raised in North Philadelphia or many other parts of the city requires a certain toughness, or at least more street smarts than suburban or rural Pennsylvania.
I’ve been told time and time again by police from Campus Safety Services that the Temple Police act like an extra district for the Philadelphia Police Department in an area that desperately needs it. Campus Police have responded to shootings that have nothing at all to do with the students. Why would they bother with this if police are only there to serve students?
To me, the answer is crystal clear – because they aren’t. Whether it’s an officer from the 22nd District, a highway patrol officer or a Temple Police officer, they’re on the streets for a reason, and that is to protect the common good.
Morgan Zalot can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.