In the last few months, the amount of police brutality incidents against African-Americans and Latinos have seemed to be on the rise.
Just the other day, the NYPD shot a young man 21 times; and that’s not the only incident to garner national attention. There have been stories about officers punching females, dragging pregnant women, repeatedly beating people with batons and plenty of other questionable incidents involving the police and minorities.
There is no denying that it is easy to write this from my perspective. I’m not a cop and have never been in the line of fire. But, to any human being, some of the videos and stories we’ve seen and heard strike us as excessive.
So, instead of writing an editorial on police brutality incidents, we decided to go straight to the source – the NYPD.
We were lucky enough to land an interview with an African-American cop who will remain unnamed. He’s been in the force for almost seven years and patrols the neighborhoods of Brooklyn.
Here is what he had to tell us:
Newsone: Thank you for taking the time out to speak with us.
Officer: Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to set a few things straight that are misconstrued by the media and our people.
Newsone: To begin, what would you say race relations are like at the NYPD?
Officer: Well, I can only speak on behalf of what I’ve witnessed and encountered and I have to say that race relations are (believe it or not) good. If anything, the only thing I could comment on is that some officers believe there is a certain ‘look’ that most perpetrators have and that tends to be those who follow the trends of urban Hip Hop culture. That would consist of cornrows, saggin jeans, earrings, fitted caps, etc.
So, if a cop fits this mold in his civilian clothes, they often joke ‘you look like a perp.’ I believe some of them try to mask it behind a few smiles, but they really believe that. Though, many do fit this ‘profile’, at least in the communities I’ve worked in, it’s still an unfair generalization.
Newsone: Have you seen officers unfairly target individuals who look like this?
Officer: As I said earlier, though its wrong and not right as law enforcement, I have seen that type of behavior and at times its led to arrests.
Newsone: What was the reaction to the recent settlement Sean Bell’s family received?
Officer: I honestly haven’t heard one person comment on the settlement. The unfortunate incident took place nearly four years ago and so much has happened since then. The focus has shifted.
Newsone: What about the recent event in Harlem where a cop shot a man 21 times?
Officer: A lot of the facts haven’t come out yet. Many in the department are mad because the media is so quick to paint us as the bad guys. I suggest people wait until all the facts come out.
Newsone: But you can understand the rush to judgment in a city like New York where Louima, Diallo, and Sean Bell occurred?
Officer: I do understand that, but think about all the other incidents where people jumped the gun and were wrong about us.
Newsone: Have you ever jumped the gun? Do you think you’ve ever engaged in behavior that could be considered police brutality?
Officer: Never! In my time as an officer, I’ve managed to have a clean record. I make sure that whatever the “perp” says I don’t pay attention to. Most police brutality cases arise from cops who can’t control their emotions in the face of insults.
Newsone: How tough is it to restrain yourself?
Officer: It’s definitely tough because we’re human beings. These people we’re arresting are criminals and then they have the nerve to be disrespectful as well. That adds fuel to the fire, but most officers don’t let it get to them.
Newsone: Have you ever encountered any racism from your superiors or fellow officers?
Officer: I have not.
Newsone: Have you heard any of your fellow police officers talk about a cop they had to work with who was racist?
Officer: Not at all.
Newsone: Now you patrol high-crime areas in Brooklyn. In these high crime areas across the city, are more minorities deployed there because of the population or is having two white cops in a predominantly black neighborhood common?
Officer: It’s very common. Our job as police officers isn’t to randomly pick whoever we want to be criminals to be just that. We are out there looking for criminals. So, you will find two white officers in a neighborhood and 9x out of 10 there won’t be an issue.
Newsone: But that one time…
Officer: It could change everything because you’re dealing with life and death. People tend to forget how difficult our jobs are. I’m not justifying any of the past injustices that occurred, but when it’s night-time and people are drunk and belligerent, you’re as scared for your life as that person is when he knows you’re on his tail. Unfortunately, decisions are made in split-seconds because that’s how quick your life can be taken.
Newsone: What types of crimes have you seen an increase in during your time on the job?
Officer: Where I’m currently working? Rape, robbery and grand larceny is on the rise.
Newsone: Have you seen an increase in crimes throughout the years?
Officer: It went down when I first started, but it’s steadily risen the past few years.
Newsone: Any idea why?
Officer: More illegal guns in the street could be a reason as well as the economy.
Newsone: What do you think of the NYPD’s stop and frisk policy?
Officer: The stop and frisk policy is an important tool in helping the department curb serious offenses.
Newsone: I disagree. It is a violation of our civil rights.
Officer: It is, but at the same time, crime would have never gone down in the Giuliani era to now if it weren’t for these small measures.
Newsone: Isn’t patrolling a neighborhood at night and responding to calls quickly enough to curb crime.
Officer: Sometimes you have to do things that may not be approved by the public to make everyone safer.
Newsone: Have you seen an enrollment increase in the police academy by minority applicants?
Officer: I have seen a huge influx of minority enrollment in the police academy.
Newsone: What do you think of the suggestion (if the NYPD had enough minority cops) that only Black or Latino cops should patrol their specific neighborhoods?
Officer: What’s ‘enough’? I think that’s an unfair term to use. The department has many minority officers and I don’t think its necessary or productive to limit them to patrolling specific neighborhoods. The stigma associated with white officers being detrimental in urban communities is largely unwarranted and disrespectful. This isn’t the 1950′s. Promoting segregation would be a HUGE step back.
Newsone: What’s the key to stopping crimes in our communities?
Officer: First of all, parents need to place a greater emphasis on having their children do something constructive with their time. These are the people who are committing the majority of the crimes in the urban community. Many outlets do exist, but too often, the lack of education and ignorance permeating within these neighborhoods overshadow the blue collar work ethic; so these kids are enamored with chasing the fast buck and a reputation. Communication between the community and the men in blue is also vital. If the police have a good rapport with the people, they’ll be more inclined to assist investigators when a crime occurs.
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