by Taylor Fuqua
“I always watch my back when I go places looking for people that may stare at me for too long, watching for people I may have pulled over and wrote a ticket to weeks before. I may have forgot about them, but my color, face and uniform makes me stand out as a target.”
Within the past years, headlines have popped up frequently with tragic incidents involving police and African Americans. With technology evolving, and social media to report major events almost instantly, it leaves a lot to wonder about the root of all the continuous chaos. Is race really the issue? Is it the lack of training within police forces? For one young African American male in a small town, he believes the solution starts with him.
Being one of the youngest on his police force, this young black man, who wants to remain anonymous, says he joined his local police force to do exactly what they are there for, to serve and protect. Growing up in neighborhoods that weren’t the best, this officer saw firsthand the issues revolving around police officers and young African American Males, right outside his front door.
“I’m from the hood,” he said. “Being from the hood, everyone is similar but so different. Some of us chose to go down the wrong path and pay for it. Some of us make great decisions and make it out.”
Fortunate to be on a positive path, he did whatever he could to encourage his neighborhood friends to get on the same path he was. With biased feelings toward police officers, the constant harassment in his neighborhood, or getting pulled over almost every weekend, this young man began feeling hopeless.
With all the negative interactions he had with police officers, he learned he had to start thinking smarter and being more cautious, a reality many young African Americans are finding themselves in, whether that was not staying out late to keep unnecessary attention away, driving strictly on expressways where he knew more people would be, and keeping away from backstreets, just in case something was to ever happen.
“My pants had a belt with them and were on my hip and not an inch below,” he said.
The smallest things such as how loud he played his music in his car, could make him a victim of an unfortunate run-in with police officers.
Trying to carefully and cautiously live his everyday life became a nuisance, so he decided to take a more positive approach to the issue he faced. He became a police officer.
He says currently there are 12 African Americans serving in his department, but he feels the opportunity for more African Americans to join law enforcement is abundant. He says the police force should be a direct reflection of the communities it serves, but questions how many people would take a stand and make the decision he did in joining.
“How many of us are willing to go into places where people are running away from the situation? How many of us are willing to respond to a call where someone could get hurt? The pool gets smaller when you start to mention the duties and aspects of the profession,” he told the Spartan Echo.
When asked about what has been the most difficult transition in life after becoming an officer, he says it’s like any job: it is hard being a novice and not knowing anything.
“When routine is noticed, there is comfort in saying I’ve seen this before and I know what to do. But some things aren’t so cut and dry or black and white. Being a police officer every day is different,” he said.
Going over many things at once, seeing the worst in people, being lied to constantly, the messenger of bad news, and even writing tickets are challenging. His goal is to encourage the communities he serves in to be active and aware of what is going on around them. He says not everything you see on TV is necessarily happening or going to happen outside of your door. He believes he took a step in the right direction for a more active and took an effective approach to the conflict involving his community and police officers.
He encourages everyone else to do the same and “be the change” they want to see in the world.