*The following blog is developed from an interview with a Police Officer from New York* The officer, a white female, will be referred to as A.D.
The purpose of this interview was to begin a healthy dialogue between two individuals who have very different experiences. We find ourselves trying to navigate the cultural landscape of our country.
A.D. has been a police officer for over 17 years. She was on patrol of 13 of those years. She has seen the worst of humanity.
I had enough. I was angry at everybody. I was tired and frustrated and I wanted to do something different. I couldn’t leave as I have a 20 year retirement and I have small children.
She decided to take an opportunity to move into a different department which was by appointment only. Her husband is also a cop.
With kids I was like one of us needs to be safe. One of us needs to be in a position where we are safer, there are no guarantees though. One needs to be safer and knowing we are going to come home, ya know, in patrol you don’t know that.
It was at this moment I stopped to thank her and her husband for their service. In fact I went the extra mile to acknowledge that there are times in which we forget members of law enforcement are human as well.
In fact she went on to tell me how she often thinks about her husband, his safety and will be come home, now more than she did when she was on patrol.
I switched gears and asked if she could tell me what it was like being a female officer.
I remember when I was first applying for the job. I worked in a restaurant and I was a waitress. The owner of the restaurant, their father was a retired officer. When he learned I was applying he berated me. You should be home, barefoot, pregnant, who do you think you are. What do you say to that? This was my boss’ father. I was like ok. I wasn’t even married at this time.
I went to the academy, most academy’s have tons of women, but my academy was small, I am talking 15 people. I was the only woman. I could hear the men bonding and singing in the locker room and I was by myself.
I remember coming on the job and there were a lot of older men who wouldn’t speak to me. I am not sure if it was because I was a rookie cop or because I was a female. I would say hi and they wouldn’t even respond. There were guys who when I was hired had been on for 30 years. So just think about it.
After some more conversation we switch gears again to talk about “seeing the worst in humanity”. However before I get there I
Seeing the worst of humanity? I don’t even know how to respond. It was awful. it’s awful. You become so angry and cynical. That is why I wanted to get out. I would go to the store and think, you dirt bag. I’m sure you are stealing or beating your wife. It was hard. Really hard to deal with that 8+ hours a day. It carries over. You can’t put it in your locker as it stays with you. It changes you.
DO you feel like you regained some of what you’ve lost being in a different role the last four years?
Absolutely. I have a better perspective and think I have a better outlook now.
I intentionally started this way as I wanted to capture her story. I wanted to capture her humanity. Before we turned to other matters I wanted it to be known who A.D. was as a person.
We began to discuss more challenging matters. Many people believe that there is a systemic problem with policing in this country. I stated that I believe issues of racism and prejudice are alive and well.
What are your initial thoughts in what I am saying? Is it overrated or does it have merit?
Obviously I have first had knowledge. Many people want to weigh in on this discussion and have no real information to validate what they are saying.
After taking a moment to pause and gather her thoughts…
Obviously there are bad cops out there. I will not deny that. Those type of cops make us look bad. I get pissed. I get very angry. I am busting my butt trying to do a good job.
I blame the media. They are selling their story. They are covering some of the things and putting spins on things. I think there is definitely racist issues and bad cops but I think people are jumping to conclusion and judging without having the facts. This goes for the media. If a cop is bad, then a cop is bad and sure cover it but let’s find out first.
I am not disagreeing with… the issue… with… black lives matters movement but I didn’t want to go there.
So then we went there. We began to discuss BLM and some of the major cities where we have seen the protest.
Then I got personal. I asked her about the response I often hear from some of my brothers and sisters when a black male has been shot (majority happen to be white) who say “If you just obey you would have lived”
As a black male who has never been arrested, has a wife and two kids and a former pastor what that says to me is that the sentence for disobedience is death.
Well walk me through “if you obey you will live” is that a fair assessment?
No, not fair. That’s BS.
Here’s where I mention that regardless of someone’s record is this acceptable? In fact I mention that I didn’t know what ever the crime was it was worthy of death. I then mention the argument given about black on black crime, stating that we understand what happens when civilians break the law and the rules that are in place.
I get the issue of cops, if something is wrong, not being prosecuted and I agree. If the cop is bad and does something they should be prosecuted.
We were taught better to be tried by 12 than carried by 6″
From this point we discussed the high stress that comes with these situations and the mentally of ending the threat. We also discussed the “bad” cops on the force.
Some final thought made by the officer
I think I’d like to say also that if people did comply that many situations could be avoided. Not all situations but many. On the street is not the place to argue and fight. People have to understand we can’t always tell them what is going on or why. Sorta like parenting. “Because I said so” sometimes has to be. It’s funny. So many times when everything calms down and I could explain things they understood. We have to be in charge or it doesn’t work. We have to take control to protect people and property. If we come to a call or something they can’t control the situation. That’s why we’re there and have to take over.
Ultimately this was a very powerful conversation. In fact what was said off interview was probably even more life changing. I believe that we both took the time to hear each other out, see the other person as an equal human being and realize they have hurts and fears as well.
We have a long way to go so I pray that this is the first of many conversations.