I am a 30 year old college educated Black male who grew up in the Greens point(Gunspoint) and Acres Homes (Da 44) area of Houston, TX. I have no criminal record, and I only saw the inside of a jail because I was negligent in paying traffic tickets. I am also a product of a single parent household, raised by a postal worker. I, like most Black males, have an extreme distrust and anxiety towards the “boys in blue” (hood colloquialism for Houston Police Department officers). Why?
Because we were taught to fear them by our mothers and grandmothers. The police were people who would “get you” if you did something bad. They would put you in jail, the place that mama was trying to keep us from. We were told to be respectful of the police if we were pulled over for a traffic violation. We also knew that if they were called to protect us that they would not come in time. While watching Blaxploitation films, I saw the police harass my boy Jim Kelly in Enter the Dragon and then in another film the police planted drugs in his car. I was told by NWA to "F*** Da Police", told by Public Enemy that "911 is a Joke", and by the Geto Boys that HPD were “Crooked Officer[s]"“. I heard about the federal agencies pushing crack into South Central L.A. Then in 1991, I saw Rodney King get stomped by the LAPD, and later witnessed the judicial system let the police officers off. As a young man I saw the arrogance of some officers, who would use their badge to intimidate young Black males. My father found himself at the wrong end of police brutality, my uncles and other people that I know have been victims of the vilification of Houston police officers. And as a teenager I found myself at the end of brute force twice.
With these experiences in my subconscious mind, every time I see a police officer I am always on alert. I feel like if I have not done something wrong, then they can find something wrong about me, or if I have done something wrong they will beat the sh** out of me.
This might seem strange to some people, but is it a reality for most of the people that I know.
Police brutality or excessive force against Black males is not new. This type of action by the people who are supposed to protect us has been going on since the enslavement process. The brutality and excessive force was used and is still used to let Black males know who is in charge and to remind us of our perceived inferiority.
And here we are again, reminded of police brutality. On March 24, 2010, Chad Holley and Elijah Broussard, were caught breaking into the home of Frances Vernon. After they found out that the HPD was on to them, the young men began to run. The chase for Holley ended at a public storage facility when a patrol car tripped Holley to the ground. A video recording of the scene shows that Holley fail to the ground in submission and put his hand behind his head. But police officers immediately ganged up on him and began kicking him in the head and upper body.
Chad Holley did not have a gun or any other weapons, but he was stomped repeadetly after he had already surrendered.
The video recording has been unavailable for the public for months, untl last week when KTRK ‘s Wayne Dolcefino showed the video to the public.
The footage was disturbing, and made me very angry. I was reminded of what I was taught throughout my life – the police are not your friend.
What makes me even angrier is that my Mayor and Police Chief have not done everything they can do to punish the officers who committed these heinous acts.
Chad Holley is not exonerated for his crimes of burglary. He did wrong and he should pay for his crime. However, our legal system has laws and regulations in place to ensure that he is punished in the appropriate way. Not at the willing feet of happy go lucky officers.
What they did was oppressive, but it goes beyond oppression, they committed assault on a citizen.
Their acts and the acts of our Mayor and Police Chief only add to the antipathy and distrust that people of color have toward police officers.
Now before I go on, I must say that I do have family members who are police officers and I have had the opportunity to get to know officers on a personal level. I know that they are human, that they have families, that they have emotions, and they have jobs to do.
I do understand that many police officers come into the force with good hearts, but once the demands of the jobs take hold, they can become desensitized. Police officers, just like soldiers, find themselves often on the receiving end of violence where they are forced to protect themselves. And we cannot look over hundreds of years of socialization that teaches people that Black males are a threat.
Was this the case on March 24? I think not. But it is the case many times, when cops revert to stereotypes instead of accurate policing.
So, what is needed?
- · Accountability: The Mayor, City Council, and Police Department need to hold officers accountable to legal arrest standards and also for any criminal actions like excessive force or brutality.
- · Enhanced Training: Officers need more psychological and sensitivity training to prepare them better for intense situation where stereotypes can overrule good policing.
- · Community Partnerships: Officers and the community need to spend more time together outside of emergency situations. The community needs to see HPD as members of the community, instead of enemies of the community.
- · Better Education: In my opinion, certain criminal actions are not innate. Some criminal actions are born out of extreme poverty and horrible public education. When a child can read, do math and science, they are more likely going to continue with school and less likely to succumb to criminal activities. When education fails them, their opportunity for good employment decreases, so criminal activity is the resort that many choose to eat.
- · Better Jobs: Jobs that afford a person the opportunity to take care of self and family are also good deterrents to crime. Because when people’s needs are met, then they don’t have a desire to meet them with criminal actions.
Until then, I am still afraid.