After recent police misconduct in Sacramento, Boston and Philadelphia, here’s how three Black police chiefs failed to do the right thing
Questionable police dealings continue to prove that there’s no justice in a racist system, no matter who is in charge.
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In times like these, I’m reminded of Zora Neale Hurston’s words that “not all my skinfolk are my kinfolk.”
As we continue to witness what has now become a weekly dose of Black trauma porn being broadcasted nationwide, my anger is being felt with not only those who inflict racism, but also people who are complicit with it.
Let’s just talk about the elephant in the room.
Black police chiefs who adamantly defend what continues to be an unjust and racist system of policing are indeed a part of the problem. The way that several of them in command continue to cape for inexplicable instances of excessive police force shows that their blue blood is thicker than their Black one. At a time where videos are going viral with what appears to be solid evidence of foul play, Black commissioners, chiefs, and police officers seemingly continue to demonstrate an unshakable sense of loyalty to those who could do the same to them if not for a uniform and badge.
“They did a service that they were called to do,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, a Black man, recently said of the excessive use of his six officers that were infamously called to arrest two unarmed Black men who occupied a Starbucks without purchasing anything.
“And if you think about it logically, that if a business calls and they say that ‘Someone is here that I no longer wish to be in my business,’ [officers] now have a legal obligation to carry out their duties. And they did just that.”
— On Point – NPR (@OnPointRadio) April 17, 2018
According to the illogics of Commissioner Ross, it was “a service” for six cops to waste taxpayers dollars to escalate a non-criminal matter that might have been fatal if it had not been filmed by white bystanders?
I guess I should be dumb enough to expect that two white women, who choose not to order a frappuccino at the same gentrified location, would have experienced similar microaggressive behavior from the police….yeah, I thought so.
“Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence,” tweeted Daniel Hahn, Sacramento’s first Black police chief on the community outrage surrounding the extrajudicial police killing of unarmed Black father, Stephon Clark.
“We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way 2look after one another as if we were 1 single tribe.”
Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten r very existence.We all know the truth:more connects us than separates us.But n times of crisis the wise build bridges,while the foolish build barriers.We must find a way 2look after one another as if we were 1 single tribe.
— Daniel Hahn (@Chief_Hahn) April 15, 2018
This was the passive aggressive and tone-deaf response Hahn had for a community that had every reason to express its rightful anger at a system that has unfairly taken another Black life. Instead of showing empathy and understanding to a hurting community, this Black police chief prefers to chastise the movement rather than hold his officers accountable the pain they have inflicted.
Ivy league disappointment
“I absolutely do support the officers,” Cambridge Police Commissioner Branville G. Bard Jr., a Black man, said of the alleged physical aggressiveness of his cops who arrested an unarmed Black Harvard male student over the weekend. Reports indicate that he was brutally assaulted by Cambridge police officers. Some students have since called for the officers to be fired for failing to act appropriately with a student who appeared to be suffering from a mental health crisis.
“You have to judge their actions within the context of a rapidly evolving situation and not within an ideal construct…We operate in a practical world,” said Commissioner Bard.
Behind the scenes
What Bard won’t tell you is that an employee connected to his department actually sought to potentially intimidate me and my attempt to share information via my Twitter account about some students who have criticized the Cambridge police’s actions.
In a now removed tweet that included a statement originally given to me by the Harvard Black Law Students Association (BLSA) on Saturday morning, I was informed later that day that a man connected to the Cambridge Police Department was trying to “track down” my contact information.
After finding me, this individual texted a message explaining that he “wanted to see if Police Commissioner Bard from CPD could reach out” to me the next day. Choosing my words wisely, I passively told him that I would reach out after receiving updated information from BLSA. I never replied and after Commissioner Bard issued a statement, steadfast in support of his officers’ handling of that unarmed Black Harvard undergrad, I have no intention to.
An important revelation
After years, I finally get it. I finally understand that the moment a Black person chooses to put on that blue uniform and badge, they no longer have my best interests at heart.
If I were to be terrorized by their fellow peers, I doubt any of these cops would speak out and defy the very institution that have historically oppressed our ancestors. What many won’t admit is that the America police system origins are rooted in white supremacy. Those who continue to work within that unaccountable system without speaking out about the egregious behavior that pervades many police departments across the country are complicit in the state-sanctioned violence.
I can’t get it out of my head. Zora Neale Hurston’s was so right when she proclaimed “not all my skinfolk are my kinfolk.” It has become abundantly clear that blood isn’t always thicker than water when it comes to those who choose to go blue.
Ernest Owens is the Editor of Philadelphia magazine’s G Philly and CEO of Ernest Media Empire, LLC. The award-winning journalist has written for USA Today, NBC News, BET, HuffPost and several other major publications. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and ernestowens.com.