Black People And The Police.
Only Half Joking.
You Just Never Know.
For the past several decades many urban areas in the United States have made a concerted effort to recruit and retain minorities for public safety positions particularly the police departments. There is a pretty good chance that if you get pulled over in a metropolitan area the officer might very well be a person of color. However, there is still an uneasiness that exists in the black community that should not be ignored. The fact remains that a large number of blacks still don't trust law enforcement especially white officers. There are many horror stories about black citizens and white police officers that never make the news cycle. It is those encounters that get the most attention among blacks and more times than not are the ones that blacks use to form their opinions about police departments. You would have to look far and wide to find a black person who is not familiar with the Rodney King story that happened out in Los Angeles in the early 1990s. King laying what seemed to be helplessly on the ground while no less than five L.A. police officers beating him with clubs not knowing that a citizen was filming the brutal act. The film footage was shown repeatedly on the network news programs and the black community was outraged. They were even more outraged when all the officers were acquitted of any wrongdoing. Now Rodney King was not a choirboy and had come to the attention of police prior to this event, but did he deserve to be beaten in this manner? Most reasonable people both black and white would say no. But the damage had been done. Many blacks would come forward and tell stories of police brutality that did not make the news programs. The Rodney King situation would fuel the debate about how unfairly and how different a black could be treated by white police officers in any part of the country.
Driving While Black.
Black parents do their children especially their male children a disservice if they don't educate them on how to conduct themselves if and when pulled over by police officers. Here's a few things that should be included in that conversation.
- Keep your hands visible
- Be respectful
- Ask before you reach into your pocket to get identification
- Do what the officer tells you to do
- Answer questions clearly and politely
- Do not argue with police officers
Officer Friendly Still Exists.
Now with all that said, it has to be mentioned that there are still a lot of very good police officers who's agenda is not about race. If you look closely it's not hard to find reports and stories about officers in all parts of the country who go beyond the call of duty to protect and serve. I am talking about the ones who as first responders run towards the danger instead of away from it. Or the ones who show up like a beacon of light on some lonely road when you have a flat tire or have run out of gas. (Not everyone has AAA) I enjoy the work that gets done at the busy intersection when the traffic light has gone out and selfish drivers just speed through without considering consequences of an accident. How about the officers who catch up with the aggressive drivers and speeders who are recklessly weaving in and out of traffic. It's situations like those that make you feel good about seeing a police officer. As most men and women who work in law enforcement will tell you there is no such thing as a routine call. We have all heard stories about a policeman pulling over a driver who got out of the car with their guns blazing. Or the officer responding to a domestic call which escalates into violence. They just never know what they are walking into.
Blacks Face Different Treatment When Stopped.
Even with the contributions and additions of the good officer. The black community still has a very uneasy relationship with law enforcement agencies, especially black men. Many men of color will tell you because of stereotypes we face a different tone and line of questioning from the white officer who may be anticipating a confrontation as soon as he steps out of his squad car. Being stopped and frisked, or aggressively questioned are a couple reasons black men have what is sometimes called an "attitude" when having to deal with police. After showing their license, registration, and proof of insurance pretty much everyone would wonder why questions like the following would be asked:
- What business do you have on this public street in this neighborhood?
- Have you ever been arrested?
- Where do you work?
- Where are you coming from?
- Where are you going?
Again these are just a few questions if you are driving while black (DWB) you may be asked when you get pulled over by some police officers. If you put yourself in the shoes of a black man who may live in the neighborhood, own the car, and is on his way to work this kind of traffic stop could be looked upon as harassment. If you add that he might be in a hurry and his companion in the car may be a white female you get a perfect storm for a confrontation that has nothing to do with a traffic stop.
A Really Tough Job.
The current climate in which we live is one that most could agree should be tough on crime. Police officers and other first responders have very difficult quick life altering decisions to make on a daily basis.This may sound somewhat simplistic, but the answer to so many problems is so often simple and common sense. People in all communities should be sensitive to the problems officers face and look to work with them and develop solid relationships which would make communities safer. The other side of the coin is officers should be sympathetic to citizens needs and situations. Blacks might reconsider their position of wanting police presence in the community but then being quick to accuse law enforcement of harassment. It is hard to have it both ways. Also be mindful that there are lawbreakers out there and police have the duty to find out who they are, therefore they have to stop and question people. If you are not breaking the law you should not be offended when an officer has a few questions. Let's just hope those questions are necessary for a reason other than you are black in a luxury car and in a white neighborhood.