I was recently asked to provide some insights from the perspective of a rookie currently enduring the rigors and successes of a California police academy. As such, I will give the obligatory disclaimer that none of my views necessarily reflect those of my department or academy.
Here it goes.
First some background. After working for years in customer service, having gone a small stint in the military, and earned a few college degrees, I decided to follow some good advice and make my way into law enforcement. I didn’t go into it pursuing a lifelong dream or a desire to chase bad guys, guns blazing. I went into it because I am good at talking to strangers, have a profound sense of justice, and have been told I’d be good at it. I decided to go on a few ride alongs and then I was hooked! After distributing the finer points of my work life and personal history to agency after agency, I was picked up for a corrections job at a local Sheriffs Department while waiting for a patrol position to open up at that same department.
Having gotten my feet wet in corrections for close to a year, I was blessed to be chosen for the academy sponsorship I had applied for. So here I was, about to undergo yet another substantial learning curve and yet finally have a chance to pursue my true career. It was an exciting time!
Then Ferguson happened. Then New York happened. Oh, let me back track a little bit. I am one of a few black recruits in my Academy and should I survive it and FTO, I will be the only black male deputy in my department (that I know of.) That being said, my perspective, much like my mind and body, have undergone some substantial changes in the last several months to a year.
When I was young, my parents taught me to have proper respect for authorities and how to properly conduct myself when dealing with law enforcement. That said, there was always an underlying mistrust there. Add to that, the more generalized or popularized perspective of black LEO’s is overwhelmingly negative, being seen as sellouts or traitors. Though I have had the undoubted support of my parents, this career path was not the first they would have chosen for me. That didn’t stop me however. I wanted to go out and help. I wanted a chance to change the image of black men and of cops in the minds of the public. Then came Ferguson. Then came New York.
The academy alone is tough by design as is FTO. There hasn’t been one week where I haven’t questioned my choice on some level. Questions such as whether I am strong enough, patient enough, young enough (I’m in my mid 30s BTW), or good enough. There hasn’t been one easy week. There hasn’t been a time when I believed this career couldn’t take me away from my family or take my family away from me somehow. There hasn’t been a time since I started the Academy, that the events from out East haven’t made everything more complicated.
All of the above surely begs the question, what then, are my views on said events as a rookie (a pre-rookie really,) who is black? The quotable I suppose would be this:
The mantra “black lives matter” is absolutely true. The underlying implication that “black lives matter more than others,” carried about by rabble rousers and divisive politicians, is absolutely untrue. The more accurate mantra of “all lives matter” is much more preferable in my opinion. Everyone is entitled to a level of respect but no one should ever expect more than they are willing to show to others. This is a lesson I learned long before going into law enforcement but it has been reinforced by seeing what life is like on the other side of the badge.
As a person of color in law enforcement, walking the thin blue line becomes all the more precarious when people try to draw black and white ones on either side. This is exacerbated by politicians who use the situations mentioned as a political asterisk in their career and a blood thirsty news media desperately looking to inflate their ratings. As a result of this irresponsible behavior, my brothers and sisters of both badge and ethnicity are left feeling disenfranchised by the very same lip service that purports to be looking out for us.
So what am I to do in a nation increasingly hostile to law enforcement? How do I do my part to quell the artificially and unnecessarily stoked fires of racism? I do what I have always done in my life, when an insurmountable challenge is before me.
I carry on, I don’t quit, and I trust God.
This “law enforcement Vietnam” as someone aptly put it, will pass some day. I plan to use this baptism by fire to make me a better officer and member of the community I am working to serve. I plan to prove the haters wrong and change some lives for the better.
– Academy 1 Bravo