Updated: Aug 31, 2020
It is important to note that this is a very heavy topic that can often turn into heated conversations. I encourage you to share your thoughts about what I have written but not in a disrespectful or ill-mannered way. Let’s Talk About it.
2020 has presented a grand amount of highs and lows for this country. Unfortunately, racial tension and police brutality have made their presence known within the new decade. As a black woman growing up in a law enforcement family, working in law enforcement for ten months I have felt a varying amount of emotions. We live in a culture where condemning anybody has become entertaining so when we can do it to a group of people we feel deserve it we go all out, stripping them of their humanity. This should not be the case. I want to share my point of view with you and some optimistic solutions that will heal the relationship between the public and the police.
Throughout my entire life, law enforcement has been present. Within my immediate family, my stepfather has worked 22 years in law enforcement working in various areas such as swat, narcotics, and patrol. My mother has worked as a victim’s advocate for 22 years starting her career in Georgia in the year 98’. So I had always felt a sense of security around police officers. The familiarity of the uniform always made me feel safe and protected. I can remember the joy of getting out of school and getting picked up to go to my mom’s office to give all the officers— white, black, and brown— high fives and hearing them reassure me on how much of a good kid I was. I can remember being able to ride in the back of the police car for the parades knowing that I was with the “good guys” that serve the community. Every summer I got to attend the Sheriff's camp growing up with fellow police kids being surrounded by individuals who we all thought were heroes.
I say all of this to say police in the earlier stages of my life were never a threat. I solely believe this is because I was a child and most importantly a child of fellow policemen. In my teen years, I began to comprehend a little bit more about racism—how it has been a intricate part of our society. I mean, of course, we were taught about it in school but I began to understand it on a more personal level. More importantly, how big of a part it played in early policing and continues in modern-day policing.
As I have gotten older I am aware of how many police may view me as a black woman and all the negative stereotypes that come with the name. BITCHY. AGGRESSIVE. HOSTILE. And those are few, to say the least. But if you know me, I fall under none of these titles...unless provoked. Needless to say, this preconceived thought does not go over well with many police that doesn’t know or don’t look like you. So as I began to understand certain things about police culture my very childlike idea of them began to fall apart. It wasn’t until 2012 where any confidence or security I had in great policemen would completely crash and burn.
I remember when the 2012 tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin happened and how tense my house became. I was a freshman in high school and this was really the first popularized and globally viewed the killing of a black man in my generation. I remember being furious and frightened. Some of my peers and I were mind-boggled by the fact that a simple hoodie and black skin makes you criminal. We never knew that what happened to Martin would act as a catalyst for the next 8 years further destroying the relationship and trust between police and black and brown communities (as if there was even one, to begin with). Although we know Martin was killed by a neighborhood watchman and not the police, the department and the court system was condemned by the black community for handling the case poorly and letting Martin’s killer walk free. As similar stories to Martin’s continued, we the public had become justifiably angry with how departments had continued to let the racism and abuse of the badge go unchecked. It was apparent that many officers were participating in the Blue Wall of Silence.
What is the Blue Wall of Silence you ask? By Google's definition, it is a term used in the United States to denote the informal code of silence among police officers not to report on a colleague's errors, misconducts, or crimes, including police brutality. Many years passed but it took a man crying out for his mother taking his very last breath for many officers and departments to break the code.
Fast-forwarding to 2020 in the wake of the tragic killings—back to back—I’m sure shakes more than just me to the core. Seeing George Floyd, a man who got a little drunk, went to the local corner store and tried to use a fake bill to buy something. Or reading about Breonna Taylor, an EMT who was sleeping when officers burst in on a no-knock warrant shooting her 8 times leaving her without medical attention for 5 minutes. And being able to hear the fear coming from Elijah Mcclain who was walking home after a day of work with a ski mask on because he tended to get cold at night. He was a victim of excessive force being pulled to the ground and put in a chokehold and injected with a sedative with a dosage for a person twice his size. With so many stories like this, I see, feel, and understand the rage of my community. I can understand the stance of wanting nothing to do with the police and I also understand why there is a push for serious police reform. I think a lot of good can come out of what the peaceful protesters are asking and I do not completely condemn the rioters.
Because of my familiarity with the negatives of police culture, I always thought I would stay clear of any law enforcement career, let’s just say God had different plans. Being on the opposite side of the fence changes your perspective on certain things. I can understand the many frustrations that some law enforcement officers have when being portrayed negatively in the media. It can be a lot of added pressure when faced with the scrutiny of knowing you have become responsible for something that didn’t happen in your department. It can be frustrating facing years of generalized statements. And for many black officers, it can be frustrating and disappointing to be shunned by your community especially when you enter a corrupt system to be the change that is so desperately needed.
Being on the other side of the fence has allowed me to see that the problems that the public is angry about are not just public problems but everybody’s problems. I learned this through listening and hearing from both sides—police and the public—people only see and comprehend what they want to. Only a few will take the time to listen to a different perspective and try to gain an understanding to move forward. For example, the Good Ole Boys club culture of police and law enforcement departments rarely makes room for someone to speak up about the change. Fortunately, because of the recent tragic events, this has to change and is changing.
I have six major solutions that I think would help heal the relationship between the police and the public. I think most of the issues that the public has with the police are summed up into three words. TRUST, TRANSPARENCY, and ACCOUNTABILITY.
I cannot continue my writing without letting you in on an officer's perspective. From talking to my step-father who is coming up on his retirement soon, one of his biggest frustrations had to do with the constant generalization of cops. When you make generalized statements about any group of people you make those who don’t fall into that category feel underrepresented and in this case unappreciated. The amount of officers leaving law enforcement has been great in the past month. I fear that the ones that are actually corrupt will be the only ones left. It is not right to condemn everyone for one man’s doing if you condemn anything and condemn the system that allows those bad seeds to get away with it. He and I both feel that the media has done a bad job representing law enforcement in its totality only showing the bad and never the good that officers do every day. I truly believe there are good policemen still out there, however it is solely their job to confront the racist systems of policing because they are working in it every day. All of this should be a team effort. So instead of putting all cops under one umbrella, encourage the ones that do the job with dignity and honor to speak up for the justice that we all need, want, and deserve.
The heaviness of the conversation can’t simply be done in one blog post. I don’t believe my 6 solutions will solve every issue that the system has but I do think it’s a start. My purpose in this post was simply to give a very important POV and offer some possible solutions to help us in the future. I would love to have a conversation with you all to see what you think needs to be done. Thank you for reading and Let’s talk.
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