When I was a kid in the 1970’s growing up in Van Nuys, California, north of Los Angeles, we knew the police officers who patrolled our neighborhood. In fact, our neighborhood beat cop lived two streets over. We all knew him very well. As a kid, maybe 9-10 years old, I remember there being a dispute among the kids and someone stating that our local beat cop was in front of his house mowing his lawn and we all got on our bikes, road over, interrupted him and ask him to weigh in on our debate, which he did with a smile. I distinctly remember him and his partner rolling through the neighborhood in his “Blues Brothers / Adam 12” model police car, waving to us kids, us riding our bikes next to his police car and the feeling of unity. Our neighborhood mailman and bread man lived on our block as well. This is when community had unity.
By the 1980’s my experiences with the Los Angeles police department took a different turn.
I was a typical teen, getting into trouble and spreading my wings and when I got busted with a stolen bicycle in junior high school, the police rolled out in force to make an “example out of me”. I was in 8th grade at the time, I was arrested and held in the principal’s office for 2 hours, purposely, before being marched out of school after the final bell rang, in front of the entire school to a fleet of waiting police cars. It had to have been the slowest crime day in Los Angeles’ history to have allowed that many police cars to arrests a 13-year-old kid. It was the most scandalous event of the school year thus far and instead of making an example out of me, they made me a total bad ass for the next three weeks.
But my memory of their intention, to prove some point of power over me and the other young people in that school left us all feeling less respectful of their tactics. I may have been young, but I wasn’t stupid.
Fast forward 3 years, I was 16, drinking beer in a cul-de-sac with some friends. We chose this spot, because we could see cars coming at a good distance and we had an escape route should any one come. We drank there off and on for over a year, with out any issues and then one night we watched a black and white round the corned at speed, barreling towards us. Our immediate response was to ditch our 40 ouncers in the ivy and blast for the escape route, the second we made a move, their cherries lit up and we could hear the engine strain. They had a 300-yard street to get to where we were drinking, we had a 100-yard parking lot to cross before a 4 foot drop off into another parking lot, a place they could not drive too.
We were halfway across the parking lot when they reached the entrance. In a full terror sprint, we hauled ass as they approached. I was blistering the soles of my shoes I was running so fast, I cleared the first lot, cleared the drop off and cleared half of the next lot, but my slowest buddy wasn’t so fast. I turned around to see him tackled by a female police officer who grounded him into the asphalt. She put his arm behind his back and as he screamed bloody murder I watched and heard her hyper extend his arm behind his back and snapped his arm like a twig, on purpose. The blood curdling scream that followed still makes me sick. I remember her looking around the parking lot to see if any of us had seen / gotten the message. My respect for the LAPD ended that very moment. 16 years old.
Every single experience with the LAPD, Ventura County Sheriff’s department, Kern County Sheriffs department, Burbank PD and other police departments (Williams Arizona is a particularly shitty PD as well) has yielded the maximum ticket, sentence, fine, punishment. Regardless of how simple the infraction. Any time it has come down to the discretion of the police officer, where he could have simply said “Well, it’s not a big deal, just don’t do it again”, the option has ALWAYS been the MAX. As an adult I have never run from the police. Any time I have ever been pulled over I have kept my hands on the steering wheel, spoken clearly and with a respectful tone, but it has always been met with the maximum fine, harassment or arrest.
With all this said, I have never been beaten by the police. I’ve been verbally abused, had hand cuffs put on way to tight, been put in holding cells overnight without shoes or shirt with the air conditioning maxed out, ect.
Do I believe that through all of these negative experiences, that the only reason I have never been beaten by the police is because I am white? At 53 years old, looking back I can say, YES, I feel, that even though I have had a lifetime of negative experiences with police, that my only saving grace has been my skin color. I firmly believe, that there were many, many instances, where things could have been very different for me, if my skin color had been different.
I have personally experienced police officers, judges and corrections officers that were not qualified to do their jobs. Both men and women that 100% abused the power of the badge to incite fear, pain and exert power over the community that has only led to less respect for them. I have also seen the police 100% blow off their responsibility when called upon them at times of need and NOT do their jobs.
I’ve heard time and again that “It’s a tough job being a police officer”. I get that. If you’re not up to the task, DON’T DO THE JOB!
Today the beat cop is dead. He has been replaced with NATO equipped marines that patrol the streets of America like its Baghdad. Police patrol streets that they don’t live in. They have ZERO connection to the people they are sworn to protect and because of this, respect for the police, by the community is gone. The police are not seen as hero’s, they are feared by everyone from children to the elderly.
Do I believe the black community that there is systematic racism in the police department, your damn right I do! What a horrible, fearful way to live your life, never knowing when or where you will be harassed by the police. Knowing that no matter your financial status, you will always be seen and treated like a criminal.
And what is the police’s end game? To eradicate 12.7% of the population of the United States? Where do they think the African American population is going to go? Do they think that they are going to beat them all to death and then one day it’s just going to be all white America?
It’s time all people stand up against the injustices of the police. Force them to a higher standard. Force the police to weed out the bad seeds by putting pressure on them all. Make it such an unpleasant situation for them that they are forced to remove the prejudice, abusive and violent cops from the police department and end the “Good old boy” way of doing business. It’s only when the police have had enough, that they will look inward. It’s only when they look around the police station and see the officers among them that have bragged about and been rewarded for abusing their power (I’m looking at you Bakersfield PD and your ‘Baby Seal award’). It starts at the top! The police chiefs of America need to become the hero’s of tomorrow by making the hard choices and living up to the standards that they signed up for.
There is no secrete that the blue protects the blue. That the blue is the only color they are sworn to protect and that all races are judged with black following to the bottom. This isn’t some abstract concept that’s hard to understand. This shit has to end or we will never be free, any of us! #tiredoffearingthepolice #blacklivesmatter