Many Blacks want to be blue

Elinor Tatum | 6/11/2015, 11:21 a.m.
Insert foot in mouth here. Or in other words, good morning, Commissioner Bratton. Recently NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said in ...
NYPD Photo by Bill Moore

Insert foot in mouth here. Or in other words, good morning, Commissioner Bratton. Recently NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said in an interview with The Guardian newspaper that a problem exists with hiring Blacks for the Police Department because “we have a significant population gap among African-American males because so many of them have spent time in jail and, as such, we can’t hire them.”

Well, Mr. Commissioner, the word “can’t” is of your own choosing. The fact is that if you wanted to, you could hire more African-American males. You just have to do it properly, openly, honestly and justly.

We know our young men have a higher percentage of arrests than young men other communities. And we know you know that as well, because you are the one who is ultimately responsible for seeing that they have criminal records. Have you forgotten the impact of your “broken windows” policy, the stop-and-frisk method at the heart of your quality-of-life strategy? The city and state are responsible for all those 16-year-olds who are not treated as juveniles when going through the system and are then saddled with adult criminal records. If parity was truly wanted at the NYPD by the upper echelons, then it actually would happen. But we know that currently and as with commissioners past, only lip service is being paid to these abysmal numbers.

Only 15 out of every 100 officers are Black, and that number is sure to decrease given that the recent graduating class had 891 candidates and only 97, or 10 percent, were Black. That means the people patrolling our communities, for the most part, do not look like us. And our communities have no incentive to go into the force because (A) we seem not to be wanted, (B) we are not recruited the way we should be, (C) most of our interactions with police are negative and (D) when we are hired by the NYPD, it really doesn’t matter that we are officers, because in plain clothes, we are still just a Black person on the street. Just ask police officer Omar J. Edwards. Oh, you can’t. He’s dead. You could ask Desmond Robinson. He’s not dead, but he easily could have succumbed to his wounds after being shot four times, at least twice in the back, while on duty. Both were shot by their brothers in blue.

Last December, Reuters published the story, “Off Duty, Black Cops in New York Feel Threat From Fellow Police,” by Michelle Conlin. The story states, “Reuters interviewed 25 African-American male officers on the NYPD, 15 of whom are retired and 10 of whom are still serving. All but one said that, when off duty and out of uniform, they had been victims of racial profiling … The officers said this included being pulled over for no reason, having their heads slammed against their cars, getting guns brandished in their faces, being thrown into prison vans and experiencing stop-and-frisks while shopping. The majority of the officers said they had been pulled over multiple times while driving. Five had had guns pulled on them.”

We all know there is a problem. Maybe the top brass is just figuring this out, but it is something our communities have been complaining about and trying to fix for decades. We need to figure out how to bring more Black officers onto the force. We need to ensure their safety, at least from other officers, and we need to make sure that they have the same opportunities for promotion and leadership that others do.

We know that all things are not equal, but why can’t we take the extra step to try to reach equalization? We need our streets protected, we need our families protected and there are good men and women out there who want to serve their communities. Many Blacks want to wear blue, but for some reason, the NYPD can’t find them.

Maybe you need to look harder—and smarter. We are out there. Just let us know you are committed and that you want us.