*There is a pandemic.
The black motoring public needs to stop scaring white police officers.
Incidents are being reported nationwide; white police officers say, “I was in fear for my safety”; code talk for, “I need to justify the excessive/deadly force I just used.”
As a retired Los Angeles Police Department sergeant, responsible for investigating allegations of police misconduct, I am familiar with the “canned responses” an officer can use when trying to justify an action that is unjustifiable. Phrases like, “I couldn’t see his hands” ; “The suspect was reaching for his waistband” or “The suspect was acting suspiciously” have been often uttered.
What ever happened to police officers enforcing the “spirit of the law” rather than “the letter of the law”? Why not, in cases of a minor infraction like a traffic stop use a little common sense and compassion. As a traffic officer for five years, I understood that issuing a traffic citation was discretionary. Sometimes a stiff warning and a few reasoned words could be an effective deterrent in slowing down a speeding motorist.
Many municipalities seem to have a code section which generally affords an over-zealous police officer the opportunity to “hum” a person to jail. “Hum” is slang I often heard used in the halls of the LAPD when ever a police officer wanted to be creative on the pages of an arrest report. When, before the days of video car cameras – the officer’s version of an arrest was the only version offered.
Creating probable cause or manufacturing reasonable suspicion appears to be a thing of the past. Now, all a police officer has to do is articulate that he or she felt threatened. I recognize that there are inherent dangers in being a police officer. Sure, there are some real bad guys “out there”. But not everyone black or brown person poses a serious threat to a police officer’s safety. I suggest, if you are scared day-to-day working in a black and white police car – perhaps a career change is in order; go work in a library, on a farm or in a flower shop.
And what about the travelling public? Citizens are saying they too are fearful; of police officers who are supposed to protect and serve. We have seen examples where staying in the car [while black], exiting the car [while black] or walking down the street [while black] can invoke fear in a pistol packing, baton wielding and taser-toting street cop. So much fear, that police officers are routinely, beating, shooting and arresting anyone who ‘scares’ them.
John Q citizen, a former superior court judge or a university professor are equally positioned to find themselves on the back-end of an “interfering or refusing to cooperate with an officer” arrest. And of course, with that trumped-up charge comes a trip to jail, a duty to post bond or “three- hots- and a-cot” if you can’t make bail. There is something inherently wrong with this system.
The notion that “hand-hiding” or refusing to exit a car when told or displaying your driver’s license when asked is somehow justification for an officer to use excessive and/or deadly force is just wrong. Police officers receive an inordinate amount of training before they are turned loose on an unsuspecting public. Police officers are therefore held to a higher standard and expected to rely on their training to help diffuse and de-escalate almost every situation.
In car (dash) video cameras, body-worn cameras etc will do little, in my opinion, to dissuade an errant officer from abusing his authority as in the unlawful arrest of Marcus Jeter. All a police officer has to say is, “I feared for my safety.”
As a mother of young, black men, I “fear for their safety”. I’m concerned that each time one of my sons leaves the safety and sanctity of our home there is a real possibility that he could be killed; not from a falling tree or a dangling electrical wire but at the hands of a racist police officer.
I am waiting to hear one of these [white] officers say that they feared a white motorist who refused to exit their car; whose hands the officer could not see or someone who made a furtive movement which resulted in excessive or deadly use of force. I’ll wait.
I am waiting to hear a police agency proclaim that a white driver had been stopped for not wearing a seat belt or talking on a cell phone or because there were no gloves in their glove box. I’ll wait.
Clearly it would appear that there needs to be additional training provided to these street cops; maybe a little diversity training, some sensitivity training and then let’s throw in some common sense training for good measure. I’ll wait. In fact, we are all waiting.
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