This Is What the NYPD Told Me…
Finished up another interview with a member of the NYPD, a black male with 20 years of service…very enlightening. It may take a little while to compile everything, but here are a few quick takeaways from interviewing both a white, female police officer and black, male police officer, in NYC. This just skims the surface, but I hope it challenges you to re-think and think about the protests and the recent shootings of unarmed black men that continue to happen:
1. Both of the cops I interviewed admitted to being pulled over by other police. For the male cop, he says due to his undercover work, he had been pulled and stopped 100s of times. Although the female officer had been stopped much less, they both responded the same way. They do not give the officers stopping them any reason to question their motives or challenge their safety. They both responded that when they are stopped and when anyone is stopped or pulled, listen, follow instructions, and keep your hands where they can see you. The male cop also said his son, had been stopped 100s of times. He tells his son the same thing: if you have a complaint with a police officer, file it later…not during the confrontation.
2. Both cops (who are in different precincts and have no connection to each other), questioned where were community leaders, church leaders, and male role models for communities of color. They both expressed, that these neighborhoods have been “forsaken” and the youth “forgotten”. They both said it is not the police’s responsibility to “parent” these communities. They also both commented on the high number of black-on-black crimes and that black neighborhoods “protect” criminals by not providing information.
3. In the case of Eric Garner, both officers said the paramedics standing by and not offering Mr. Garner help was an issue that seems to be ignored. They differed slightly on Garner’s treatment. The female cop replied, he should have followed instructions. The black cop felt they should have double or triple-cuffed Mr. Garner, and after saying “I Can’t Breathe” 11 times, their responsibility to Serve and Protect him was ignored. The white, female officer said the cop who shot Jonathan Ferrell in Charlotte, was an idiot and needed to be fired.
4. Both cops also expressed the challenge of having young, immature cops who think they know everything and make decisions based on their ideas rather than protocol. One officer suggested raising the age as to when a person can become a police officer. The male cop used the shooting of 12-year old Tamir Rice as an example of protocol not being followed. Officers are taught in those situations to do three things: time, distance, cover. None of those things were done in that situation. He also replied that it is the officer’s job to de-escalate a situation, not to make it worse.
5. Both cops expressed the daily experience of their lives always being put at jeopardy with every stop or search they conduct. They want to get home to their families too. In fact one officer said, “if you are between me going home to my family and you going home to yours, who do you think is going home?” They also both agreed there were some bad cops, just like there are bad teachers or bad doctors. This is why both vehemently expressed, listen, follow instructions, keep your hands where they can see you. Both officers also blamed media for unfair portrayals of cops and black males as all negative stereotypes. One was a huge proponent of PALS (police athletic leagues) so officers could “see the people as individuals.”
Lastly but unfortunately, race matters. “they see us differently” was stated several times in the interview and one of the officers said, “it is black kids shooting at us-not white kids…if I see a group of young black males walking on the street, yes I’m stopping them…”
I am absolutely looking forward to the rest of this article, Prof. Koonce. This is a subject that is very dear to me. Thank you for having the guts to write it.
Thanks so much. I definitely hesitated and deliberated too long, but it is a conversation we must have.
Wow. Good information.