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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Policing Ourselves

A writer writes!

Some of the dialogue revolving around the grand jury verdict on Michael Brown's shooting mentioned that the African American community wanted police in our neighborhoods.  Well, we do want police to respond to calls for help.  What we don't want is a disrespectful occupying army in our neighborhoods.  We want respectful police who don't assume the worst about us when encountering us in person.  Don't come into our neighborhoods thinking that firing your weapon is the only answer to community problems.

What African American neighborhoods also need is a higher degree of self policing.  If you see something illegal going on, report it.  Ban together to let elements that are undesirable know that you don't want illegal behaviors or criminal activity in your neighborhood.  Establish those formal Crime Watch groups as a visual reminder that you don't support crime and will turn in those committing crime at any opportunity you get.

For some reason I would prefer to see more African American police working in African American neighborhoods.  Somehow it just makes me think they would care more and understand more than someone whose only exposure to African American life has either been in a classroom, a bar, a television show, or a movie.

Not all people who live in impoverished areas are criminals.  Some people are there based on factors related to their background.  They have not yet been able to escape the cycle of poverty.  Police of any color should not go into such a neighborhood with an "us" versus them mentality.  That just breeds distrust and conflict.

Give me an African American policeman to work with and I would feel more comfortable than working with a Caucasian policeman.  It's a matter of expectation and trust.  Yes, that African American policeman could have been adopted by a Caucasian couple and lived a lifestyle not typical of African Americans.  But, I would know that African American policeman likely encountered some attitudes in his or her journey that would make them understand more what it is like to be an African American.

Until we're at a point where we are color blind, I think we need to just police ourselves more.  We define what behaviors we want in our communities.  Take charge.