Thursday, August 02, 2007

Good Cop. Bad Cop.

So a really great discussion on this morning's Front Page radio show hosted by Dominique DiPrima. Continued when Stevie Wonder's morning show started after Front Page.

Police brutality in Los Angeles, and related subjects.

An attorney from The Cochran Firm, founded by the late Johnnie Cochran, summarized cop stops as this: if you're young, if you're male, if you're black or latino, just answer the questions simply, no drama, or you'll be shot by police.

His rationale: there's no accountability or consequences for police who shoot civilians in California during cop stops.

Lots of discussion, experiences, callers calling in with their own personal encounters during cop stops. Of course, a few cops called in to defend the profession. Very good community discussion.

This all reminded me of something a cousin of mine, a former football player, a former cop, and now a minister in Michigan, told me when I moved away to college many years ago. His words -- cops are crazy and paranoid, I'm one, I work with them; if you're stopped or questioned, just sit there, answer yes or no, don't do anything crazy, and then get on with your business... then call me.

I think most black or latino families have had that talk with their young sons. Just a part of raising boys of color. Or is it?

The other day I led an exercise in class where students reflected on their attitudes and beliefs around various ethnicity, class, and gender issues. When the topic of cops and military came up, most, who are students of color and working class, had negative views and perceptions of both cops and military. Many commented there were more military recruiters than college recruiters in their high schools in L.A. That's a whole other subject.

When probed further, most of the students said their parents had had "the talk" with them regarding police interactions. Many had seen members of their families or neighborhoods affected negatively by law enforcement encounters for both large and small issues. Funny, how in East or South L.A., crack can get you tons of harassment and years in the system, but our neighbors in Beverly Hills or L.A. celebrities get probation and bad publicity for a lot more. That's a whole other subject.

But the topic then turned to people of color who choose to become part of law enforcement profession. Are they potential helpers in the community? Are they able to change the law enforcement system? Or is the brother/sister-hood of law enforcement too strong to overcome personal desires to change the system?

All interesting. Personally, I think there are other ways to make change in society other than joining law enforcement or even military. But I know sometimes people are drawn to particular professions for who knows what reasons.

Still, the words of my cousin are always in my mind. And I'm always prepared just in case.


rlmitchell said...

Hey Fred,
I worked for the LAPD for 12 years, before quitting because of the stress. I have a friend, a black man who wrote a book about his experience as an LAPD officer called "One Time". He grew up in South West LA and then chose to patrol the same streets. He started out very idealistic and turned ... well read the book. I hate spoilers.

D-Place said...

I think the way to change society is to be a part of every aspect of it. One aspect is the judicial system. I understand that more white people are arrested than Black people but more Black people are imprisoned than whites. Interesting huh?