As Jarratt Taylor was beginning his cumulative project for the University of Oregon’s multimedia journalism program, he did what he often did when he needed story ideas – he asked a friend from his undergrad years, Laurel Auda-Capel.
Laurel, it turned out, had become a counselor at Roosevelt High School in north Portland. And she had a whale of a lead for him. A Roosevelt student had just been Tasered by police in a controversial incident in downtown St. John’s, and many of her students were upset.
How did this story evolve?
They weren’t allowing media into the assembly students had. That closed the door on the story at first. But in the end there was a story to tell. Laurel was able to point me to students who were pretty vocal and had powerful things to say to the mayor and police. Also, students who had been profiled pointed me to peers who they thought were important people to talk to.
I had a meeting with Roosevelt students and that sealed the deal with me, hearing how they spoke up about incidents of racial profiling, how this incident had brought home national news and made it more personal to them. They had never had one of their peers experience police violence.
How hard was it to get permission from the police?
It took a while but it wasn’t as difficult as I thought. I contacted an officer who I had worked with previously. I sent an email to him and he sent an email out to people at the precinct. The only officer who wrote me back happened to be the school response officer at Roosevelt. That felt very serendipitous. The barriers I thought would exist weren’t actually there. I got to go on ride-alongs a couple of different times. It was easier to get access than I thought it might be.
Do you think making this movie has made you someone who can now speak on these issues?
I had to think about what’s been happening on the national scale to create this local story. I became an expert in some ways, but I shy away from thinking of myself as an expert. I still don’t feel like an expert about racial profiling or police violence. I’ve become more attuned to it when I hear about it. But I think that if I were to screen this I would want to bring some people along. I don’t think I’m the first person to speak on the issue.