In the summer and fall of 2020, marches and civil unrest erupted in Philadelphia and across the United States, capturing worldwide attention. Images of both destruction and hope traveled around the world to other cities, including Berlin, managing similar challenges. Those images were still fresh in the minds of a delegation of 15 German police officers and nonprofit representatives who visited Philadelphia and the surrounding region in October to discuss solutions and best practices in community policing. Their 7-day itinerary included conversations with a diverse mix of leaders, including the Philadelphia and Camden County police departments and Councilmember Jamie Gauthier.
A highlight of the group’s visit focused on the next generation, who are impacted by police activity in their community but don’t often have an outlet to voice their opinions. During a moderated discussion with high school students from Science Leadership Academy (SLA), the young leaders candidly shared their thoughts on policing, sometimes informed by generational experiences, as well as their hopes for the future of their city. For some students, it was a rare opportunity to present these ideas and ask questions to a police officer in person.
“I was impressed to see young students be really brave to speak to adults and ask difficult questions. It was touching to hear their personal stories and hear their daily experiences with the police,” shared Jamunna Oehlmann, whose organization in Berlin promotes exchange between civil society and security authorities.
SLA senior Malaika Gadsden shared the importance of approaching these critical issues with a global lens. “I think often when we talk about cultural exchanges, we look at surface-level things like movies or how we dress. But sometimes we have bad things in common such as police brutality or systemic racism.”
“It’s important to me to make those connections so we can figure out how to fix it on a higher level…If we can recognize that it’s an international problem, then we have more solutions and brains thinking about it.”
International relations will be key to our City’s recovery and Citizen Diplomacy is important to the City. U.S. Department of State exchange programs (IVLP) are continuing virtually into 2022, but in-person programs, such as the German delegation, are beginning to return and with them the economic benefits to hotel and other tourism industries. Our programs support our tourism industry, engage a diverse mix of community leaders and students in international affairs, and work to solve the most important global issues of our time.
Over 7 days the delegation experienced a wide breadth of Philadelphia including:
- Tour Independence Hall and enjoy restaurants, shopping, and attractions.
- Participate in the Constitution Center’s Policing In A More Perfect Union program, which examines the history of policing in a democratic society and its historical context within the Constitution and Bill of Right.
- Hold roundtable discussions with the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD), Commission on Human Relations and Citizen Oversight Commission.
- Engage high school students at Science Leadership Academy in a discussion on how Philadelphia teens interact with local police.
- Go in-depth with the PPD’s Internal Affairs and Community Relations units on Philadelphia’s and Germany’s policies and practices.
- Meet with Councilmember Jaime Gauthier and her constituents to discuss de-escalating 2020 protests and the implications of the 1985 MOVE bombing.
- Hold a panel for business leaders on Community Policing and Business at the Union League with PPD and Ray Mustafa, owner of two supermarkets in the 52nd St Commercial District, impacted by the 2020 protests.
- Meet with Interfaith Philadelphia, Volunteers of America, the Camden County Police Department, the NAACP, and a photojournalist working with Camden residents.
Check out the CBS Philly3 TV news spot!
Thank you to Steve Kelly of ELAP Services and Chris Vargo of PNC Bank for sponsoring Citizens Diplomacy International Philadelphia’s public panel and reception and our incredible community for hosting these critical, global discussions with us.
The 2021 professional exchange program Philadelphia and Camden Collaborations (PACC) is administered by Cultural Vistas, in collaboration with Citizens Diplomacy International Philadelphia. The program is generously funded by the Transatlantic Program of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany through funds of the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi).