Monday, May 16, 2016

The Black Policeman

I have been a police officer for the past 10 years—wait I have been a black police officer for the past 10 years. You may ask why the distinction? Being a black police officer has many challenges, one of them being the shrinking numbers of us across the country, but I digress. This is about being a black police officer, while at the same time policing predominantly black neighborhoods, where many folk are just trying to get ahead. Folks in these communities are underserved, met with few too little opportunities, and are too often left wondering how are they going to make it. But how does one police these neighborhoods? I unlike most officers come from these same neighborhoods, my mom struggled as I came up, and just the other day loathed the fact that she couldn't help me through college. So I understand the plight, I get it, but the question remains, how do you police these neighborhoods? What is the quintessential formula if there is one to getting it right? I'll start by describing how I personally take on the challenge. You see I police with compassion and empathy. I know the struggle, I don't approach every black dude like he's a gang banger up to no good (not sayin every cop does, but it happens, let's be real), why because I am them, I have friends who look like them who are thriving with great jobs, and are supporting their families the right way. 

But you may be thinking great, they must love you down'll be surprised by my next few words. You see I'm not received 100% of the time with the proverbial loving arms, in fact I'm met with scowling eyes, and looks of disgust, by my own people. "Come on black man, you gone do this to me, we both black" " You ain't shit, just working for the white man, you see we struggling out here." I can go on and on with the negative colloquialisms and would probably run out of space. I mean it's ridiculous. I have to constantly remind myself that they don't see me in a Nike sweat suit with air max on. They see this uniform that in some cases represents oppression, fear, and harassment. They see authority, they see in some cases, especially over the last few years, a misuse of power. They see killers. They see a lack of compassion and empathy.  They really don't see me, at least the real me. If they only knew that I was an ally, one who's gonna cut them a break when I could, give them advice on how to get ahead a life, and how to seek out better opportunities if they would listen. You see I come in contact with so many people, it would be a travesty if I didn't at least try to help....within the scope of my job obviously. But to be honest it's frustrating. WE be out here all wrong, driving with no license, ain't showed up for tickets in years, so they pissed when you stop them and have to impound their ride. WE roll with our music so loud you can hear it blocks away, WE drive without regard for the rules of the road, and lord have mercy if I had a dollar for every time WE jaywalked, then got pissed and looked at me like I was wrong for stopping them. WE drive our cars on city streets with our kids not properly restrained, hell and we don't like to wear our seatbelt (a recent rant-"It's my life why tf I gotta wear it?"). Not all of us, but in the hood this is what I deal with, and I'm always saying, just go to court, ask for help try to get your license. If I had to put it in numbers , hell 1 in 3 don't have a license, because it's suspended or revoked. 

Sometimes it's trying, and I feel like just quitting and taking my degrees and going to  find a job in the private sector and just be well off. But during black grad, the keynote speaker challenged us to be great, and to stand in the gap, and open doors for other blacks to enter and grab opportunities. The speaker said you're not out here to just look out for you and yours, but to really Help out your fellow black man. So I guess this is why I won't leave the police department. Somebody has to listen to our voice, somebody has to be there as an example of the possibilities that are out there, somebody has to be there to open the door for other black folk, and We have to have a voice in that room and a seat at that table and more importantly,  someone of color has to be out in our communities, because on the flip side and I'll end it here, what makes it all worth it is when I hear, "good to see you black man, it's not enough of y'all out here, keep up the good work"

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