Bulletproof Vest and Aviators: Social Change, Firsthand

Katrina Smith ’14, Philosophy and Political Science, participated in the Governor’s Summer Internship Program through UMBC’s Shriver Center.  

Katrina Smith

Sitting on my couch eating Nutella and Wheat Thins–this was high school for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I did well in school, participated in clubs, and played softball, but I just didn’t see a point in all of it.

Then I started listening to the world around me and a light went off with every story uncovered. I witnessed injustices firsthand, involving people close to me.  I watched a good friend be taken in for a psychiatric evaluation by police. This friend ended up feeling more victimized due to the experience and ended up not seeking treatment for a longer period of time because of it. I began to gather passions.  I am passionate about ending intimate partner violence and I am passionate about ensuring fair, adequate, and respectful treatment to those in mental health crises. I was determined to create change.

That’s where summer 2013 comes into play. I was lucky enough to participate in the Governor’s Summer Internship Program (GSIP) where I interned at the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. At my placement, I was tasked with researching and presenting on the use of GPS monitoring for respondents to protective orders. While I had worked with victims and with juvenile crime prevention in the past, this was the first time I felt like my work on intimate partner violence would impact a large number of people and would potentially save lives.

katrina smith gov 2Myself and two other interns worked on a policy proposal as well, studying the need for statewide police standards for calls involving mental health crises. We presented our proposal to Governor Martin O’Malley in person. While my mentor said you couldn’t see my legs shaking from the audience, I’m not sure I believe her. Nerves aside, my group had the opportunity to put this issue on the Governor’s radar for his last term in office. Adequate training of officers and better relations between law enforcement and mental health services allow for safer interactions and a greater continuity of care. These measures can spare people like my friend the devastating experience of being mistreated by law enforcement officers, and could even save lives, like  that of Ethan Saylor, a man with Down’s Syndrome who died while being taken into police custody at a Maryland movie theater in January.

katrina smith glasses

I was also able to tour two correctional facilities and ride-along with the Baltimore City Police Department, a dream come true for me. I’m fascinated with the criminal justice system as a whole and those who frequent it, so seeing two sides of it firsthand was incredible. I was able to eat prison food, see the availability of programs for incarcerated individuals, and of course, I rocked the aviators and bulletproof vest.

I got to do some awesome things this summer, totally falling in line with my passions. Along the way I was able to identify new passions, such as safe housing for gender non-conforming inmates and community-building activities within prisons and in city neighborhoods to reduce violence. In the future, I hope to continue working within my passions to create change I truly believe in.

Contact the author, Katrina Smith at k78@umbc.edu.

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