The Black Folks Guide to Understanding Police in 2018

Knowing what police really think and how they police could save your life. There are all kinds of community policing interventions deployed at state and local levels to deter misconduct and deaths of suspects and the innocent. There always has been. There always will be…

The Black Folks Guide to Understanding Police in 2018
Photo by Blake Cheek on Unsplash

Get this now Black folks and get it damn good.

There are all kinds of community policing interventions deployed at state and local levels to deter misconduct and deaths of suspects and the innocent. There always has been. There always will be. But there are some things that Black folks need to understand about policing. You need to understand the history of policing, the history of policing Black folks, and the state of policing today.

The sooner you get it, the better off you’ll be. Sharing is caring, so tell your friends.

Understand first and foremost, the police are going home EVERYDAY after their shifts. This means they will error on the side of caution instead of giving a citizen/suspect an opportunity to prove they mean no harm. Yes, they are trained to defuse various situations. Yes, police receive a little professional development training on how to deal with persons with mental illnesses. Yes, police are trained to suspect first, trust later. But know when you engage an officer in any form or fashion if you’re Black, the cop is human and may have biases and issues that taint their ability to police without fear. Sometimes police departments use old mugshots of Black people arrested for target practice in police training activities.

So, expect Black folks to look scarier than any other type of suspect to cops. Because we have no insight into training and other shenanigans deployed to train police, Black people are simply rolling the dice when we interact with them.

Understand the police are employed by local, city, county and federal governments. They aren’t volunteering because they love their communities. It’s a JOB. They are getting paid to work as police. Therefore, they act in the best interests of their employers, not the taxpayers. Keeping it short and sweet, they all stick together (even when the city or county government they represent speaks out against them). The good officers cover for the bad ones to keep their jobs, and to avoid workplace harassment by those sociopath bullies.

If the good cops must choose between the band of brothers (and sisters) in blue and you…Sweetheart, you already know how that story goes.

Understand every cop has unknown/unacknowledged stereotypes and unsupported views/biases which coincides with how he/she polices. If the individuals policing us fear or hate certain groups of people or certain communities, then they are more likely to police this group differently (more harshly) than his own his or her group. If you want more police that resemble your community, send your decent children to work for the local police force. Otherwise, you get Joe Schmoe from anywhere else who is perhaps a reject no-go who shouldn’t be allowed to keep anyone’s cat let alone police humans.

Because we don’t get to make decisions in the hiring about candidates policing our communities…sometimes we get the not-so-best and darkest instead of the best and brightest. Just saying…

Understand there are a lot of police officers in positions who shouldn’t be cops! They did just enough things to not get caught up to get a criminal record. They are just crooks with badges. The law protects them and pays them to police you. They are living their best lives love. And don’t forget now…they are going home every day too just to harass people another day. Is that setting in yet?

Understand all cops aren’t bad. Therefore, you should treat the cops you interact with accordingly. Don’t take your shit out on an innocent cop because you’re mad at the state of policing nationally. These people have children, parents, siblings, spouses and significant others. Again, they are just doing their jobs, trying to feed their families just like the rest of us. Some people don’t want to be cops, but it’s the best gig going, so be kind. Bullying by either side only makes things worse. Even good cops have breaking points, and they have the law on their side. Choose your battles wisely.

Understand policing in 2018 is derived from slave catching. Catching, killing, and controlling Africans is a part of America’s DNA. The institution of slavery and the control of minorities in this nation’s history shaped early policing. The tactics created back then still live on today. Congress also passed fugitive Slave Laws, laws allowing the detention and return of escaped slaves, in 1793 and 1850. The similarities and rationales for policing slaves and Blacks today are deniable. Black people have always been pursued and detained, as slaves were important to the economic well-being of slave owners. Those slaves aided in building the America of today.

With that said, understanding America’s history can help you understand the present as well as the future for being policed while Black. History repeats itself because we don’t learn from it. American tactics of oppressing and detaining minorities only evolve, they never go away.

Even when we are detained as suspects and convicted offenders, we have value to America’s system of things. They need that Black labor to clean city, county, and state roads to keep from paying employees. They need the labor of convicts and those unable to make bail to do lots of jobs states used to hire and pay employees to do. That is just how the system works.

Now, we can talk about statistics, the news, videos, and all the other emotional stuff. There are plenty of posts all over Medium and the internet talking about that.

I’m not advocating for law breakers (some petty people need to learn the difference between a rule and a law) and those bad-asses or lost souls who walk around living recklessly. If you do the crime, then you should understand the cost of committing those crimes. You’re deciding to interact with cops directly or indirectly, and in doing so, you should always be prepared to die. It’s like that, and that’s the way it is.

I’m giving you some advice I received because I am “privileged” to be able to navigate police safe spaces. Generally, they are very nice to me. I have met some asses too, the kind that makes you wonder how they treat other citizens they police who look like me. I have watched some, and asked others community policing questions. I’m not anti-police, in fact I have absolutely no issues with police except when they harass my good sons. Besides, I need them to come when I call them, and they work for me. I pay taxes. But I also don’t want any smoke from them either.

I can’t promise the info above will save your life, but at least you get a little insight into how cops think, how police departments think, how our criminal justice systems work, and how America’s policing systems evolved into what we have today. This is some guidance for Black folks on policing in 2018.

Understand that no matter what you do right, anything can happen making it all go wrong. Understanding police thought-processes can help you better than citing any civil right you might think you have. The less frequently Black people engage the police, the better off Black lives will be. It’s just that simple.

Be safe my people, and study American history. Knowing better will help you learn how to fight better.

Marley K., 2018