*No use of force. No Taser. No arrest.
As a retired veteran sergeant of the Los Angeles Police Department, I have been a participant/observer in the “tale of two police departments.” That is, the way officers treat affluent community members versus citizens who are less fortunate. And believe me, it’s no secret among the rank and file; police officers’ act very differently when patrolling in West Los Angeles than they do in 77th division (south central L.A.). Much like the Washington D.C. story of Jody Westby and Denis Stucky.
Jody Westby, an attorney who lives in an upscale neighborhood, recently came to the aid of a disabled, black man who was being racially profiled by police officers in Washington D..C.
According to media reports, the officers thought Denis might be a burglary suspect based on a radio call from a nearby subdivision. Denis was walking down the street [while black] and carrying bags in an area known as Foxhall Crescent. I guess the black police officers who patrol that part of town thought, for reasons I cannot explain, Denis “didn’t fit the area”. Racism is racism. Even reverse-racism.
Stuckey, who was seated on the curb, according to one of the officers became “loud and boisterous” when they began to ask him, “where he had been.” This made the police “suspicious”. Apparently, being accused of being a burglar and voicing displeasure at that assumption equates to criminality.
Jody Westby, eventually helped Denis Stuckey to his feet and led him away when a black, female, police officer told Jody to “stop.” Jody scolded the officers and told them they had no authority to stop Denis. As Jody continued to walk away, one of the police officers, a male, black who was still seated in his car, offered Jody a business card and watched her walk up a driveway away from where the officers’ had previously detained Denis.
Now I know that disparate treatment based on geography really does exist on police departments. I have watched officers become syrup-ie sweet when resolving radio calls on the west side of town like Venice Beach and the Hollywood Hills and then listen to how an officer speaks in a way that could be construed as condescending in 77th Division and Southeast Division; located within South Central Los Angeles. Police officers’ business cards are not handed out in South Central like Chiclets. It was amazing to me to watch in the video as the police officer in Washington D.C. yelled after Jody so he could give her one of his business cards. That’s almost unheard of – an officer messes up and then wants to give you one of his business card as you are telling him that a complaint is coming. In the hood asking an officer for his identification is usually followed by YOU getting a beat-down and then YOU get booked for assaulting the officer.
With all that we have seen reported in the news lately, imagine if you will – a Jody Westby with black skin. She would have quite possibly needed the services of a medical professional (doctor) prior to her being booked into jail for “interfering with an officer’s investigation” or “refusing to cooperate.” Or worse yet, if Jody Westby had been black there is a very good likelihood that she would have been shot when she walked away with Denis in tow.
I find it interesting that I have not heard that either of these officers reported being in “fear for their safety.” There was no scuffle, no assault or no use of force. There wasn’t even a loud, profane word uttered by the officers as a result of Jody’s defiance.
So then, what was different about this incident. Race. Class. That’s what. White Jody didn’t cause the officers to “fear for their safety.” The male officer didn’t even bother to exit his patrol car. He allowed his female partner to handle the “burglary suspect” alone while he sat on his butt in the safety of his patrol car and watched.
I can’t guarantee it – but I can sure say with a level of certainty that if Jody Westby looked like me, black; things would have ended differently and not in a good way. Eric Garner, in New York; Ezell Ford in Los Angeles and most recently Jamal Jones in Indiana all allegedly interfered, refused to cooperate, didn’t follow the orders of a police officer; none of them were able to “walk away.”
So then there’s hope. There’s reason to pause. All of this police code-talk about “fear” of the black man may be something that police departments nationwide can work to eradicate; through training, maybe. Let’s see if we can harness that sense of cooperation, reason and understanding that these D.C. officers were so willing to display for the white wo[man] and send a little our way. How about that?
Cheryl Dorsey is a retired LAPD sergeant, speaker, and much sought after police expert on important issues making national headlines; as such she has appeared as a guest expert on the Dr. Phil Show. She writes and provides commentary on police culture and surviving police encounters. She is the author of “THE CREATION OF A MANIFESTO: Black & Blue,” an autobiography that pulls the covers of the LAPD and provides an unfiltered look into the department’s internal processes.
Visit her blog under the social forum tab at www.cheryldorsey.net. Follow Cheryl Dorsey on Twitter @ retLAPDsgt