The other day a veteran LAPD officer fired a “shot” that was heard around the world. In the midst of the nation watching and waiting for justice surrounding the shooting of unarmed Ferguson, Missouri teen Michael Brown Jr., the officer wrote a controversial column.
What he should have added to his rant was… especially if you’re African-American or any person of Sunil’s color.
This officer lays it out in the context that all is fair in the methods used to stop, address and command people who are doing something wrong.
If you’re a citizen who can be reasonably sure that the only time you will be stopped by law enforcement is when you’re committing an offense, then Officer Dutta’s words make perfect sense. But we know for a fact that African-Americans, especially African-American males are profiled, harassed, belittled and embarrassed by policemen far more than non-African Americans.
Far too many of us all over the country have stories about being mistreated by overly aggressive cops and just based on what I hear Los Angeles police are notorious for it.
It’s common place for black men to be handcuffed or made to sit on the curb for simple traffic infractions while police leisurely run their plates to find out if there’s anything they can take them in for.
One member of my staff and her husband were on their way to dinner and stopped by police who thought they fit the description of two armed robbery suspects. In front of the restaurant they were told to exit their car with their hands up. As their bodies were searched for weapons, four policemen had guns drawn.
In the meantime, several other policemen called to the scene searched their vehicle. The couple stood with their hands on the building next door to where they planned to have date night for about 10 minutes until the cops discovered they had the wrong people.
Instead of an apology one officer explained that they did fit the description—an African-American couple. If the description had been a white couple would they have pulled over a random white male and female and assumed their guilt? Probably not. More than likely they would politely questioned them. But that’s not really the point.
The point is it doesn’t matter how wrong the police officers are or how much damage is done to your dignity, the best thing do at the time is to follow the directions of the police officers and to lodge your complaints later, which is what my staff member and her husband did.
I lived in Tuskegee, Alabama and marched for Civil Rights in the Bull Connor, police dogs, water hose era and I believe mightily in civil disobedience, so it isn’t easy for me to urge people to be tolerant in the face of injustice, especially in 2014. But I’ve told my children and they’re telling theirs to do exactly what officer Dutta said they should do. Be quiet and follow the officer’s orders.
My son added these thoughts:
“If for some reason you are detained in Fruitvale Station and handcuffed, don’t stand up. If you are a Professor walking in the middle of the street in Cambridge (Harvard) and an officer tells you to move to the sidewalk, do it expeditiously. And for God sake don’t walk around a Walmart with a toy gun in your hand looking like you’re talking to a corroborator on your cell.”
Police officers must always be held accountable for excessive force, harassment and straight out brutality and victims shouldn’t be blamed when the police cross the line. But we shouldn’t do anything that plays into their hands either.
The officer who wrote the column isn’t alone in his thinking, he just decided to show you his true colors.
Maya Angelou said “when someone shows you who they are believe them, the first time.