Early in my career as a police officer there is one
situation that I always remembered. While I was off duty and in civilian
clothes, an Asian male screamed and shouted he was just robbed.
I approached him and identified myself as a police officer. He then
pointed out his assailants who were in flight.
With my gun drawn and police shield displayed I pursued the suspects.
While running through the dark alleys of Chinatown in civilian attire an
unsettling fear came over me. This
fear was based upon a recent statement made at the police station by a male
white police officer concerning his predispositions.
He stated that when he sees a white male with a gun he takes precautions
for both himself and the unknown white male because the white male may be a law
enforcement officer, however when he sees a black male with a gun he takes
precaution for himself only.
Unfortunately, this is the attitude taken by far to
many members of the law enforcement community.
That attitude and or predisposition is the central theme surrounding the
shooting of Amadou Diallo. When you
combine that attitude with the perpetual demonization of Black men through the
media, as well as, the entertainment industry, it becomes apparent that the
officers involved in the Diallo case had already demonized Diallo without the
benefit of knowing his background. As
a civilized multi-cultural society this predisposition on the part of those who
enforce our laws, especially within our cities, cannot be tolerated.
All of society should be brutally honest and
acknowledge that Amadou Diallo was shot, solely, because he was a Black man.
Tragedies of this magnitude do not occur in white communities involving
white males. I recognize that this view is inpleasant to accept however,
Black and Latino citizens including Black and Latino law enforcement officers
are very much aware of this reality. Many
of our nation’s police officers are policing communities of color with
antiquated, stereotypical views. They
do not appreciate that even in high crime areas the overwhelming number of
residents are hard working law abiding citizens that carry cell phones, beepers,
wallets, and keys. African-Americans
and Latino males know all to well to be afraid when approached at night by
strangers in civilian clothes and driving non police vehicles, whether or not
they are police officers. The law enforcement community and society as a whole has been
glacially slow in addressing this constantly, reoccurring problem surrounding
police shootings such as Diallo. This
is one of the primary reasons why members of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement have
dedicated their private time toward educating young Black and Latino males on
how to respond when approached by police officers. It has also been necessary for 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement
to conduct training seminars for other black police officers across the country
on how they should respond when approached by their white counterparts while off
The true tragedy is that as we enter the 21st
century Latino and African American families have a different set of
instructions and rules for their children than their white counterparts
concerning their interaction with police.