This might ruffle feathers….sorry (not sorry).
So it was about 4 years ago, I had just moved into my first apartment. I got up went to work and when I got home there was note on the door by a neighbor, “the cops stopped by looking for you”. Well, now this is odd. They had also left a voicemail on my home phone saying they needed me to come by the station. I go to the station, wondering every bad decision I’ve made in the past year and wondering who got some bail money if necessary. I get there and…..they were just returning my wallet. I had lost it weeks ago, already when through the arduous task of replacing everything in it but this wallet had a photo of my mother which I did appreciate recovering. I had a talk with a few officers, talking about how I just moved out here, sights and sounds stuff like that. All in all good day. Over the years, I got familiar with the cops of the town, they walked the streets regularly, most lived in the town, whether I was in a tailored suit or baggy camos and a backwards fitted they treated me like a neighbor.
It was a whole new dynamic I wasn’t used to. At this point I’ve been falsely arrested twice, weapon drawn on me, followed home, stopped and frisked on my own porch, called bitch, nigger, punk and thug, and witness a family member being assaulted. Of course this was in my old neighborhood, where I was still for the most part a good kid. The cops there maybe lived in the neighborhood, they didn’t know me by name which was ironic because I was getting frisked and name ran 3 times a day. Me and my friends would take alternate routes home, have split up into groups of 2-3 because a group of us together was just asking for it. It was almost like having a playground bully except you couldn’t stand up to him, you just learned to stay out the way.
For what its worth, I do respect law enforcement and the thankless job they have. Recent events in New York and Ferguson has really made me reflect on my experiences with the boys in blue, which as you can see were two very different ones. The glaring difference being the connection between officers and community they are serving. In my old hood, we were treated as the enemy, to the point our mere presence was enough to drive them mad. Their job wasn’t to serve it was to eliminate, we weren’t allowed on these streets anymore and they made sure we got the message. [These days the old neighborhood has got a facelift, a lot people have moved because of rising rent and the old park has been remodelled and named in honor of one of the lone white residents (who is actually a close family friend, so no shade or whatever). Funny how that worked out.]
So what happens public servants are treated as guard dogs instead of part of the community they are supposed to be a part of? Well, this does. A cop familiar with his community could’ve told Eric Garner to cut the shit and go home, Tamir Rice to not flash his toy in public, Mike Brown and his friend to get out the street. Instead they just saw targets, saw “the enemy” and acted accordingly. So as the President on down asks, how can the police improve relations with people of color, it starts by establishing one period. It starts with humanizing everyone and not thinking every brown person is The Incredible Hulk. It shouldn’t be my job to make person who swore to protect me feel safe. I shouldn’t have to pull my pants up, wear my cap forward and grin ear to ear just to be viewed as an equal. In the same way I don’t view every cop as the same one who choke slammed me in that pizzeria, every cop shouldn’t view me or anyone else as a “demon”. That doesn’t start with video cameras and fashion, it starts with empathy, acceptance and community. Until police truly love and accept all civilians, sadly I expect more of the same. Myself and anyone I love being one bullet away from being a hashtag ourselves.