The thing I hear time and time again from some people when it comes to the issues between the minority community and the police is "Well if you just do what the officer says or don't commit a crime you'll be fine."
Now, I'm going to challenge any of my friends who have said this to engage in a little personal experiment.
In October of 2016, The McIntosh County Sheriff's Department fired two Deputies for making racial comments on Facebook. These two former Deputies referred to others as "colored people" and as the "N-Word." Most alarmingly they made comments suggesting they targeted black motorist.
Now, McIntosh County has a population of only 14,000, of which only 36% are non-Caucasian. Now, their behavior or words are indefensibly ignorant and morally corrupt. However, it might be easy for some of you to fail to see the impact that these officers could have not only on the perception of the entire law enforcement profession but through their actions with others while employed as peace officers.
McIntosh County might be a small rural county, however, if you have ever driven through Georgia on the most heavily traveled road on the east coast, Interstate 95, you have traveled through McIntosh County and these former deputies jurisdiction.
Now, for many Americans who can't understand how others feel, I want you to close your eyes and imagine you're cruising along Interstate 95, and it isn't until you see blue lights behind you that realize you were speeding. We all do it; we've probably broken a few traffic laws today. Suddenly, and by honestly no intentional fault of your own, you've broken the law!
Now as you pull over and look in the rear view mirror, you see one of these two officers I just discussed or another one that looks a lot like them, getting out of their car. Now imagine your skin color isn't the same as this officer.
Your mind is racing; your stomach feels like it's just jumped into your throat. Your heart rate and breathing are accelerating. You actually believe that 99% of cops are good, but is this the 1%? Suddenly your blood pressure increases. Your eyesight begins to narrow, and you lose peripheral vision. The officer just said something to you, but you couldn't quite hear him. The reason? Because you are experiencing something called auditory exclusion, or temporary loss of hearing during high stress.
Why do you feel this way? Well, you honestly cannot help it, because your skin color may be different, but your anatomy is the same as all human beings. You are experiencing the uncontrollable physiological effect called "Fight or Flight."
Your body is engaged in the automatic response to situations that could result in your injury or death. Logic and rationality go out the window. Your body shuts down all non-essential functions that are unnecessary for responding in only two ways. Flee for safety or fight to live. Now picture yourself saying to you "Just do what the cop says. You'll be fine."
Unfortunately, this is the reality that many people live with every day.
It isn't the significant percentage of good law enforcement officers that is the problem.
Rather it is the proportion within law enforcement that are bad cops that are the problem.
Now, how the good cops become part of the problem is when we fail to acknowledge or have the willingness to examine it to see the truth in the reality that I just described.
I am not preaching from a pulpit here guys. I've been there. I've been ignorant to the reality that many others face. However, through the grace of God and a willingness to connect, I have not only been afforded the ability to connect with so many others, but I have also gained many new friends.
So for us good cops, it takes more than just not being someone that would engage in the behavior of a bad person. It takes a willingness to be compassionate to spur change. Think of the difference in that scared driver if you simply walked up and in a calm voice said, "Hey, it's not a big deal I pulled you over for speeding. Don't feel bad it happens to the best of us." Think about how many chases or fights we might avoid by simply doing that!?!
As police officers, we must start assuming everyone we come in contact with is a good guy and make them prove to us they aren't. Rather than assuming everyone we come in contact with is a bad guy and make them prove to us they are good. Performing our jobs in this manner isn't going to get you hurt! The exact opposite! It will keep you a lot safer!