Saturday, December 27, 2014

PWB: Policing While Black

At Home and Work, Black Officers On Defensive:

At times they find themselves defending police procedures to fellow blacks who see them as foot soldiers from an oppressive force. At other times, they find themselves serving as the voice of black people in their station houses, trying to explain to white colleagues the animosity many blacks feel toward law enforcement. Life for black officers, many say, has long been a delicate balancing act.

But in departments across the country, black officers say that act has become much harder after a season of intense protests against police shootings, followed by the killing of the New York officers. What are black officers who support the sentiments of antibrutality protests supposed to say to colleagues who blame the deaths of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in New York on those very same protests?

“Everyone’s almost pretty much walking on eggshells,” said Sgt. Darren R. Wilson, who is the president of a union that represents mostly black officers in St. Louis, and who shares the name of the white officer who shot Mr. Brown in Ferguson. “What’s going on in the community today? How are we going to act and respond to it? What’s proper? What’s improper?”
This is very similar to the dilemma faced by African-American correctional officers, who are often suspiciously viewed by their white colleagues as being "pro-inmate," and by black inmates as being sell-outs, 'Uncle Toms" and so forth. The double bind minority correctional officers find themselves in is the same double bind experienced by minority police officers too.

This example points to the vivid divide, often experienced inside the police station, in the wake of the Ferguson decision not to indict the white police officer in the Brown killing.
Black officers say they are sometimes at a loss to navigate the racial divides inside their own station houses.

A few days after the announcement of the grand jury’s decision in the Brown case, Sergeant Darren R. Wilson said he was getting ready with other officers to begin their patrols in St. Louis when an unexpected visitor arrived.

It was Jeff Roorda, the head of the St. Louis Police Officers Association, a group that Sergeant Wilson has not always agreed with. Sergeant Wilson is the president of the Ethical Society of Police, a separate labor organization made up mostly of black officers.

Mr. Roorda told the group that the white Officer Wilson wanted to thank them for their support during the investigation of the Michael Brown shooting.

Sergeant Wilson stood silent and slack-jawed. Mr. Roorda spoke as if we were working for Officer Wilson, the sergeant said. “We were working to keep the community safe.”

Other black officers in the room had similar blank expressions, Sergeant Wilson recalled, and stared at him. He felt as though they were asking him, “How are you going to respond?” Sergeant Wilson said.

“Are you going to just let this character stand up and humiliate us like this?” he said. “I felt helpless.”
And then there is the treatment that a lot of these guys receive at home, from family members who are so anti-police, the consternation is off the charts.

The Thin Blue Line, without doubt, applies to officers of all races and ethnicities, and that comes across in the article. Yet there are clearly unique challenges in policing for minority officers that simply aren't experienced by white officers, a big part of which is in the lack of promotions and leadership positions for African-American officers. 

When that changes, you'll see unrest between police and residents in minority communities tamp down as well.

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