Two encounters with police officers left me and my daughter speechless.
Monday: My daughter’s health class had a guest, an officer of the law who gave a presentation on driving safety tips. The basic message was, “it’s in your best interest if you just be a good citizen and follow these recommendations.”
Here’s what the officer said:
Keep your hands on the steering wheel.
Look straight ahead.
Don’t move around or act fidgety.
When asked for your ID or driver’s license, ask for permission to get it from your pocket.
Don’t have loud music playing and just be cruising in the subdivisions so you look like you’re up to no good.
I’m coming out of my vehicle, approaching with caution. and I have my hand on my gun. I fear for my life at every stop.
I want to go home to my family at night.
Here’s what my daughter heard (as did I when she told me about it):
Don’t be scared. I’m already scared enough to shoot.
Don’t look suspicious. I’m assuming you are up to no good just by the volume on your radio.
Don’t give me a reason. I’m ready and willing to give your parents a funeral to visit because I’m going home to my family.
Don’t look like anybody Black who has been in the news the past few decades whose killer in blue got off on murder charges.
As a matter of fact she all but told the student to velcro their Identification to the dashboard and keep it there at all times so that it can be see without asking for it.
Pause for a moment: Before you read on, I am in no way in agreement with criminals not being punished for their behaviors.
Thursday: I hope to redeem my faith in the police officers who came out to address our community this evening. I’m in a room full of community block club members and everyone is willing to do what it takes to be a great neighbor. The officer is Black, has been on the force for over 30 years, and gives his reason for why he relates well to today’s youth. He came from a single parent, he explains….. never met his dad….. raised in the hood…… and says if he can make it they should be able to as well.
Y’all know the story. The story of the cop who’s been on the force for years and feels young people’s biggest problem is themselves.
It’s not about how you tell but who you tell!
If you see drugs in your community tell.
If you see prostitution… tell.
If you see……….. tell.
Yeah, I could give them a chance but what I like to practice is tough love.
He could speak first-hand about these young kids and the challenges they face. Yet he never did. He never pulled on the heartstrings of the seasoned group of community leaders eager to connect with the youth. Instead he told stories about how he’s caught suspects in their tracks, but never once did he speak to the heart of the matter.
He even gave that, you know, “there’s a whole generation that’s lost” spiel that most people who don’t have actual answers always give. His biggest concern of the evening was to constantly remind us to tell on our neighbors and that there’s a reward if we do.
Now, in these two officers’ defense, I don’t know what they do in their off-time. I don’t know if they go to the local community centers and work with youth. I don’t know if they build bridges to help youth do their best.
Really, I don’t care to know because first impressions are everything. How do you come to community meetings and schools and tell people the only answer to being a good citizen is don’t get killed and tell?
By the way, the “I fear for my life at every stop, I want to go home to my family” comment the officer made at my daughter’s school was in response to a question that an African-American youth asked the officer. “How does it make you feel knowing the stigma that comes with the blue suit?”
The question was an open door to connect with the youth, to let them know that all officers aren’t trying to kill people. To remind them of the oath taken to protect and serve. But she failed at these tasks and left students even more afraid.
There were questions asked in our community meeting as well. None of them were geared towards how we connect to youth in our communities but were all about just getting badly-behaved youth out of our neighborhoods.
But aren’t these children also part of our neighborhoods? How do we build a safe and healthy partnership that includes these youth? Yep, I could have and probably should have addressed the issue sitting there but I was just stunned.
These are officers talking to communities and this is all we get?
I don’t even know what all should have been said but what I do know is these two officers shouldn’t quit their day job. Or maybe they should.