This was a short piece I wrote concerning ‘police brutality’ for the blog www.jameslafond.com about a year ago.
An Urban Fairytale
I recently read an article which described one of our boys in blue truly serving a member of the public. A little black kid walks up to an officer and says,
“Hey, my mom says if I need help that I should ask a cop because that’s your job. Is that true? If so, can you tie my shoe?”
To which the cop replies,
“Of course it’s true”
and proceeds to tie the little black kids shoe…
Now at this point, I take a break from my daily fiction reading to google ‘accidental cop shooting little black kid shoe’ just to see if anything popped up. Surprisingly there were no hits. Well, at least none in the past week fitting this story. I probably should’ve streamlined the search better.
What did pop up were a few other interesting titles, such as “Bart Police Shooting of Oscar Grant”, “Officer Who Shot Young Black Man After He Was In Car Accident”, and my personal favorite, ”Black Detroit Woman Shot To Death While Seeking Help In White Neighborhood After Car Crash”. Those were just the first 3 hits, 2 of which were recent, all 3 which show the kind of ‘help’ I’ve come to expect from ‘the other Crips’ (because they wear blue). If you look beyond the first 3 hits, Google was littered with key words and phrases such as ‘unarmed’, ‘assassination style’, ‘accidental’, and ‘shot 10 times’. It reminded me of a show I used to watch on the History Channel called Gangland. I believe they also used similar rhetoric.
‘Guard Your Reputation With Your Life’
When you take into account these articles, inner city experience, and word of mouth, the line between community protector/responder (really just the latter) and gang member is extremely skewed and in some cases non-existent. To keep things impartial I will try to set my personal experiences aside. When you think of local recruitment, ability to blend in to their environment, ability to hold the population hostage, the ‘stop snitching’ campaign, and rampant violence, both gangs and police can come to mind. In my opinion that’s part of the problem. To gang members the police issue is not only a matter of resisting authority but also one of combating a rival gang.
When quelling a rebellion, use of violence is rarely the most beneficial way of dealing with it for either party. Especially with an ‘adversary’ that replenishes and recruits faster than you can. You paint yourself as a permanent enemy and once this tag is sewn in a mind, it is nearly impossible to remove. You have no reputation left on which to stand and any action taken by an affiliate of your organization will be seen as hostile or with hostile intentions. All effectiveness is lost, and ‘protect and serve’ becomes a meaningless mantra that applies only to a portion of the population.
Legacy Left To Me
What made this story so unbelievable to me was not the possibility that there were some good cops or that some did not have bad intentions and look upon the black populous as the problem so much so that they would never degrade themselves enough to tie the lowliest of that populous’, a young black males, shoe. (I have to admit this did cross my mind) It was the mother’s instructions to her child that seemed unlikely. I have never heard a black parent telling their male child to seek refuge in the arms of the police. On the contrary, there has been a deep seeded fear in the black mother’s mind of altercations between the blue bloods and their sons.
Part of the reason most black mothers are historically anti-gun is in the past they were afraid their sons, whose intentions were simply to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights possibly for much needed protection, would be unfairly targeted by authorities. The kind of instructions I have always received were things such as: ‘always have a recording device’, ‘if you get pulled over wave to let them know you see them and are pulling over in an area with witnesses’, ‘if they beat you protect your head and don’t fight back, that way the assault will be lessened’, and ‘if you don’t have a ‘quality’ witness then you have nothing, it’s your word against theirs and they will always win that battle’, ‘nothing good happens concerning them’, ‘protect yourself intelligently as much as possible’.
As pessimistic as I sound about community-police relations I do believe it can be helped. But this would take a serious vow of integrity on every police department’s part. Not that incidents causing racial tension would cease. But when it does occur, the perpetrator should be dealt with in a manner that states to the public that criminal activity is criminal no matter who is behind it and Will Not be tolerated. The ‘tying of shoes’ should be more than an occasional happening rather than the kind of ‘help’ that we currently receive.