A while back, I published “The Black Cop” where I looked at the odd and contradictory essence of Black police officers. Knowing that I could never adequately speak to such an experience, I asked Black officers to respond. The responses were many, but one stood out among others.
Below is the gently edited text from “Dino,” a retired officer who asked that his identity remain anonymous.
I am a black man that is retired from NYPD. My brother forwarded your article to me. Being an active opponent of bigoted, prejudiced officers and systemic racism of NYPD it was brought to my attention. He though I might be interested.
To begin a discussion a context should be provided regarding the use of racism. Racism should defined accurately as this:
A person, group or institution from a position of power or authority taking action(s) to adversely effect an individual person or group of people because of their racial identity.
The key words to use are adversely, power, and race — meaning a person can act in a bigoted or prejudicial manner but without the act talking place from a position of power and the catalyst for the action being race its not racist.
In a general sense about your article there is nothing about it I object to. Your comments have merit, essentially the basic premise is correct. I’m not suggesting you need any validation about it. In my opinion, police departments’ main institutional function is not the the subjection of black people primarily, but the protection of White Supremacy within the United States.
However despite an accurate historical (but simplified) description of the relationship that black officers have functioning in the system, I sense a disconnection in your portrayal of the relationship blacks in law enforcement and the dynamics by which they are involved in.
This is key and it requires everyone to have a better understanding of the extent of the challenges involved by Black Officers employed within a institution that was designed, controlled and coordinated by the powerful against the powerless. I am not excusing Black police officers that allow systemic abuse of people by white officers — that is intolerable. It’s disturbing when racist actions are undertaken by white officers and Black Officers just stand by and allow it.
Now to go back to my point, I found your disconnect similar to the way young lawyers newly involved in the prosecution of cases often relied on book knowledge and classroom practice to the application of narrowly written police law. They did not use discretion. The inexperience or lack of participation in real world events from an insulated position made it difficult for them to comprehend the situational dynamics, or how to extend justice from a book to a defendant.
Many times, I would battle with these lawyers and urge them to deal with this disconnect by linking how things occur in the streets to the way they write complaints. But they could not lend judgment or value to these incidents because they didn’t have the proper experience.
In my opinion, this is a great disservice to dispensing justice fairly as this disconnect initiates cases with a more severe tone than may be necessary, and discounts input from officers most familiar with the situation.
Regarding your article, the disconnect I refer to is different, but there is still a gap based on you not having police experience, which may (or may not) effect your readers’ perceptions given the commentary’s context.
I don’t know how many people you know or have interviewed in your exploration of institutional racism. If you did, they are the best sources available.
There are many Black police officers who’ve been vigorous opponents of individual bigotry and prejudice, and institutional racism. Oftentimes, many of these police are oppressed and penalized by the same institutional injustices that effect Black and minority communities nationwide.
White Supremacy is faceless, and operates automatically. The institutions are founded for that purpose, and thus the individual parts cannot widely effect the core objectives. However many Black police officers do not sit idly while these things occur; many battle career-long fights within their respective departments. Often with fruitless efforts in frustrating circumstances, some with minor effects and small gains effected.
I have a great many contacts, friends, associates in the police departments retired, active, in all ranks, assignments and positions. Many who would have great amounts of experience and knowledge and could lend some insight that could help to shed more light on the systemic failures within the Police Departments. If you would like to reach out, I might be of some help.
I’m sincerely grateful that “Dino” took the time to write this note to me. This letter was only edited for grammar and structure. I’m sincerely looking forward to the conversations to come. If you’d like to connect with “Dino” please send me an email at email@example.com.
*Featured Image Credit: www.theerant.yuku.com. The Black officer in the photo is former Deputy Inspector Steven Griffith, who suddenly resigned last year.