I don’t even know where to begin. I am sad, disappointed and, most of all, angry. Angry that the head of the Minneapolis police officers union does not give a damn about the black officers in the department. Angry that a former co-worker, Richard Greelis, just does not get it (“We can’t avoid talking about bad behavior,” July 14). Sad that police officers doing nothing more than protecting the very people a shooter wanted to “avenge” have been killed. Disappointed that there is still this mistrust and blatant stereotyping of both the police by black America and black America by the police. Both sides paint each other with a broad brush, and neither will take the time to even try to begin to understand the other.
I was a police officer for 24 years. I worked in Carlsbad, Calif., Minneapolis and Bloomington. I was a U.S. Marine military policeman for seven years. I have been a Minnesota Army National Guard policeman for the last 13-plus years, with two combat deployments. I am also a black American — a black male who has been on both sides of this issue.
Let me start with Minneapolis Police Officers Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll. He said he commends the four cops who walked off the job at the Minnesota Lynx game after team members made a statement expressing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement and wore warmups with the names of two men killed in encounters with police, along with the Dallas police badge. Well, did he even stop to think how the black officers in the department felt about his remarks? I am sure not all of them support what he said and feel trapped in the middle, as I do.
I remember a white sergeant telling me when I was an officer there that if I joined the Black Officers Association, “a lot of cops who think very highly of you right now won’t think as highly of you anymore.” That statement was one of the reasons why I chose to leave the department. It was a divided department, black against white, gay against straight, the chief vs. the union. This was in 1993, and based on Kroll’s statement, I see the department is, in my opinion, still divided. The statement also led me to wonder: If those four officers walked off an off-duty job because people legally made a statement, what would they do on-duty? Would they do their sworn duty when people expressed an opinion they disagreed with in a nonviolent way? Or would they drag their feet or not even show up, or just walk off then? It did nothing to help police-community relations, which at this point need all the help they can get.
Regarding Greelis: He wrote a commentary about black gangster rap and dress, calling it the “Black Elephant in the Room.” He went on to say how city cops go to calls and get the same description over and over: black male, sagging pants, etc. He states that “[i]t is a logical view for police, since it is based on years of dealing with this segment of society, day after day after day. This segment is very criminally prolific and dangerous. It has been known to deal, on a daily basis, in drugs, weapons, prostitution, rape, extortion and murder. We all know the Black Elephant in the Room.”
Well, all black people know the White Elephant in the Room — white fear and perception. It does not matter how a black person dresses, acts or speaks. Despite any facts to the contrary, black males are seen as aggressive, criminally prone, dangerous, unapproachable, loud and, most of all, angry. I have been told these things all my life. I also have been told that I don’t know “my place” and “Don’t bring your white wife around.” I have heard Minneapolis cops say “If they run, beat them” and “If they don’t like it here, move.”
I have had white citizens of both Carlsbad and Bloomington call the department when I was at their door, in uniform, to see if I was really a police officer. A white lady said to my field training officer in Carlsbad: “I didn’t know we had one of those.” I have been accused of using a stolen credit card even after I showed my police ID. I have had white people not sit next to me on the bus when I was dressed in a suit and tie — they would rather stand. Then, when I’ve related my experiences to my white co-workers at the police department, I’ve been told it is no big deal and have heard excuses made.
I have had a Bloomington officer tell me that he stops black drivers because “their licenses are suspended.” I have seen another Bloomington officer stop a car, get ID from the driver and then from the black male in the rear seat, but not from the other white girl in the car.
In all of the FBI and Justice Department figures I have seen, blacks outpace whites only in two violent-crime statistics — homicide and robbery. That means whites commit the majority of sexual assaults, child molestations (Jerry Sandusky, anyone?), drug use, weapons possession, property crimes and auto theft.
Fifty-one police officers were feloniously killed in the line of duty in 2014. According to the FBI statistics on these deaths, 42 of the alleged offenders involved were white, 13 were black, two were American Indian/Alaska Native, one was Asian/Pacific Islander and race was not reported for one offender. Yet black males are still seen as more of a threat. Why?
Now, on to Black Lives Matter. The black population in this country is not homogeneous about this movement. My daughter does not like it. I understand the reasoning and message, but I do not condone the tactics, and I think Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds needs to calm down. But to declare Black Lives Matter a terrorist organization, as some have, is just plain stupid.
I watched the tapes provided on the Jamar Clark shooting, and I can clearly see that when the officer tries to get up, he is forcefully pulled back down. Someone pulled him, and no one was on the ground with him but Clark.
With the Alton Sterling case, I want to know what he was doing with his right hand. The gun was found in his right shorts pocket. You can see that one officer had his left hand, but the other officer was trying to control the right hand, and it disappears out of sight to Sterling’s right side right as the shots are fired.
But — and let me emphasize this — from what i know right know, the Philando Castile shooting looks bad. Yeah, I will say it — it looks bad. But I will also make a prediction: The officer will not be charged.
I have yet to hear a single police officer, except a close friend of mine, condemn the Chicago shooting of Laquan Mcdonald or the South Carolina shooting of Walter Scott, who was running away from the cop. If “all lives matter,” then why not come out and say they were bad shootings?
I most likely will make some people I know who say they are my friends very angry with this article. Plus, I know that former officers I worked with will write about my own failings and things I did as a cop. But so be it. I am hurt and angry, and I just cannot stay quiet anymore.
Robert L. Simon, of Crystal, is a retired police officer and Minnesota Army National Guard police platoon sergeant.