Following arrest of black teen at Philly Zoo, staff rules under review

A screengrab of a cellphone video of the arrest of a Philly teen after Zoo security called the police earlier this month (Facebook)

A screengrab of a cellphone video of the arrest of a Philly teen after Zoo security called the police earlier this month (Facebook)

After a black teen at the Philadelphia Zoo was arrested ostensibly for making threatening remarks, zoo officials plan to review their staff training and protocols on customer interactions and conflict resolution.

This decision comes weeks after the teen was arrested outside of the zoo when a white security guard summoned the police on a group that was “causing trouble,”  according to a zoo statement. It was initially reported the youth was selling water outside the zoo when this happened, but officials said that was not the case.

According to the statement, the group was asked to leave and someone made a threatening remark.

Kenneth Woodson, the zoo’s vice president of community and government affairs, said zoo representatives have met with community stakeholders to receive advice and share their perspective of the event.

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“We learned … we need to take another look at our procedures and policies just to make sure we’re putting our staff in the position to do the right thing at all times,” said Woodson. “At the same time, provide the kind of welcoming environment we want for everybody.”

Video of the incident went viral. It was seen as another example of the over-policing of black youth and the misuse of law enforcement by white people.

Philadelphia activist Asa Khalif, who attended the Thursday meeting, said he was pleased with the outcome. Although his first reaction was to protest, Khalif said the incident required a different approach.

“I felt at that point that it would’ve been better to do what we did today, and that’s to have a conversation,” he said. “Because my concern is, I don’t ever want this to happen again, especially to our children of color.”

Woodson did not say whether race or policing would be a focus specifically of the internal review, but he promised any additional training will be “thorough and comprehensive.”

He also said the zoo is seeking an experienced adviser who has worked with diverse groups to help it through the process.

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