AN UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATION WITH THE POLICE (Prelude/Preview)
The following is a fictional interaction between members of the police and members of the community in which they serve. Although the narrative is fictional, the conversations written below are actual true, real-life conversations going on in neighborhoods across America, homes, dining room tables, bars, local watering holes, cars, and other places where conversations take place across the nation. The words were strung together in a narrative, fictional format, but the words written here are true accounts and authentic conversations that have occurred between numerous individuals and have been combined into this story. The conversation you are about to read will be hard for some people. Truth always is. You will not agree with 100% of the words or feelings of any of the characters, just as in real life you wouldn’t. Please take a moment to listen to the words.
An Uncomfortable Conversation With The Police
© 2019 Derrick Anthony Marrow
All Rights Reserved
No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical means without the explicit written permission of the author with the exception of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by law. This book is a work of fiction. Any references to people or places, real or imaginary, are purely coincidental.
The Prelude – Just Two Cops Talking
“Where are we going?” Officer Marie Harold asked her partner as they drove down an all too familiar street in their police cruiser passing all too familiar landmarks at the end of their shift. “The station’s the other way,” she said confused but trusting in her partner. When you’ve been through what they’ve been through together and seen the things they’ve seen over the years her trust in her partner was all but unshakeable and unbreakable.
“You said you had a few minutes,” replied Officer Joe Staton.
“I did but I thought you meant like, to go grab a beer or some food. I wanted to at least get out this uniform and get comfortable first,” replied Marie.
“What, you can’t be comfortable in the uniform?”
“Of course I can. You know I make this blue look good, but you know what I mean.”
“I know what you mean. You love the job.”
“A job even after you clock out you never leave,” they remarked in unison.
“But it if you still have some free time, I want you to meet somebody,” said Joe. “A friend of mine. I met her a couple years ago and we’ve been friends ever since. I want to introduce you to her.”
“Her? Mannnnnnn, don’t get me caught up in no nonsense. I don’t want to have to lie to Joy,” said Marie.
“No no, not that kind of friend.”
“With you, it’s always that kind of friend. Be careful.”
“You should know me better than that. I’ve changed. I’m a family man now. It’s been years since I’ve been that guy.”
“I’ll have to admit you have. I don’t know about years, but you are a different man now, I’ll give you your credit. But underneath this new you the old you still lurks. And every man has his weakness and maybe you’ve met yours with this her we’re going to go see.”
“So we are going to go see her. Cool. Partner trust me. You’ll see when we get there.”
“Bad things happen when people say ‘trust me.’ But I’m going to trust you anyway. Just remember it’s my funeral too if you get me caught up in some nonsense. Joy don’t play no games. And neither does Mike.”
“Sometimes great surprises, not that this is some great surprise, but good things happen when you trust the right people. It’ll be fine. I actually think you’ll like where we are going. And just to change the subject. I read that book you gave me the other day.”
“What book? Wait you mean the one I gave you three months ago?”
“Yeah that one.”
“That wasn’t the other day. That was three months ago.”
“Well I just got to it the other day. Same thing. Be happy that I read it.”
“Okay. I guess. So why are you bringing it up now? What did you think about it? Is there something you want to share with me? Some insight you’ve gleamed?”
“It was cool.”
“All you have to say is, ‘it was cool?’”
“It was interesting, insightful I guess. I didn’t agree with everything either person said, but it made me think.”
“Joe, I don’t think anybody agrees one hundred percent on anything with another person. Not even their spouse.”
“Not even Mike?”
“Not even Mike, partner. Definitely not even Mike.”
They both chuckle at Marie’s statement knowing it is true.
“How do you think it portrayed us?” asked Marie.
“Us as people or us as cops?” asked Joe.
“Us as cops. But I’m glad you phrased the question the way you did because I think people tend to forget we are people and not robots with a badge.”
“From a cops perspective I think it was accurate for the most part though no writer is going to understand what we go through on a daily basis. What we have to deal with. What we have to see and live with every day, then try and not take home. The split second decisions we have to make every single day. The blood on the uniforms from us carrying shooting and stabbing victims to the hospital. There is nothing no one can ever write to describe the job fully. But I think even with those limitations it was real, there was nothing phony or made up. I think it was truthful and very thoughtful. Some of it was hard to read and acknowledge, but deep down I knew it was honest and the author seemed to be coming from a respectful place.”
“Joe, I think that’s the point. No non-cop, or non-law enforcement agent, civilians, they are not going to understand what we go through. But even deeper than that no suburban, uber-rich township cop is going to understand the realities of what we go through each and every day either.”
“Whoa. Don’t be disparaging our suburban brothers and sisters. I don’t know if I can agree with you there Joy. Not totally. But I can tell you this. I can agree with you on this. They don’t have to deal with the magnitude of what we deal with, but those guys are cops too. There’s probably more drugs out in the suburbs per square foot or per person than we have here in the city. And they deal with murders and break-ins and domestic disputes just like us. They just have the luxury of not having to deal with the numbers of calls because they don’t have to deal with the humungous population we do. It’s the difference between one million people and ten thousand people. And they don’t have a population that’s literally right on top of each other, because they are a little more spread out, but that doesn’t make them anything less than real cops dealing with real criminals.”
“True. They are real cops. I wasn’t trying to diminish what they do.”
“I do. But if that’s the case.”
“Hold on, just stay with me here. So if we’re saying no non-cops can truly understand what cops go through, that is what we are saying right?”
“It is, because they can’t. They can’t because they’ve never walked in our shoes. They get to see thirty-second clips of what life is like to be us. They get to see things through the biased view of whoever is writing the story, either way.”
“I agree with everything you just said.”
“But. I know you… what’s the but?”
“The but is, if what you just said is true, and it is. These non-cops can’t understand cop life fully. Then how as a white man yourself, how come you think white people can understand what a black person goes through being black? Or how can a man fully understand what a woman goes through? Or how can a straight person understand what a gay person has to deal with?”
“Partner, you know I’m not a racist. You know I love you and your family. And I’m definitely not sexist. Nor am I homophobic. To each his own. And you know I think you and any woman is capable of great things just like men are, just like white men are and black men are. I don’t look at you as being beneath me or anything like that because you are a woman. Even though I don’t understand it, I don’t think I’m any better than a gay person. We are all people.”
“Joe relax. You’re good. I know you don’t think like that. I do. I’ve known you for a long time, a lot of years and I see how you work and I know the person you are. You’ve been in my home. Your family is my family, the kids, the wife. Even Mase.”
“Even the dog.”
Marie laughed, “Even the dog. But you know just like I know racists and racism exists just like sexists and sexism exist. Homophobia exists. A lot of isms and phobias, they exist. Even inside our own police department. Maybe not in this car right now. Maybe not even in our station.”
“Even in our station, there’s one or two. But they’re cops. And they do their jobs. I’ve never seen them take their personal thoughts or opinions onto the job.”
“Maybe they just didn’t show those tendencies in front of you because they knew you wouldn’t accept or allow them. But if you’re being honest you know it happens. The streets offer too much privacy and stress for those beliefs not to manifest themselves.”
“Maybe you’re right? I’ve personally never seen it so that’s all I have to go by.”
“Okay I get it. But you never answered my question. If a non-cop can’t understand what we do for a living, if they can’t understand the intricacies of what we do on a day to day basis then how do you think white people can understand black people or men can understand women and how they live? Or how can straight people understand gay people? How can Americans understand foreigners and vice versa? Or do we as people, as a society even want to understand the other side? I think this is the problem with our country right now. We can’t even respect our differences. Not that you could fully understand them, but we’ve lost all respect for one another.”
“Let me say it like this. And I’m going to be as brutally honest with you as I can be. You are absolutely right, we can never ‘fully’ understand the plight of someone else. A friend of mine lost their child. Mark from the neighborhood. You know Mark. His son OD’d on heroin. That shit is bad out there right now. I know you know, I’m just saying. Talking to my friend, unfortunately all I can do is listen. I can’t commiserate with him because my child is still living. Hopefully I’ll never know the type of pain he’s going through. There’s no way I can feel his pain. I wish to person to ever have to bury their child. Some people don’t come back from that type of grief. I can imagine what it would be like but even then – it’s just a guess. I can feel for Mark and his family and I can empathize from the outside, but I can’t truly understand his pain. I hug my kids more often now because of their loss and I thank God for my blessings and I pray more, but I can’t feel what he’s feeling. That’s how a man’s understanding of women is and one race’s understanding is towards another. I will never know what it is to be black or to face the struggle of being hated because of the color of your skin nor any of the intricacies of that dynamic. I just won’t. I’ll admit it, I’ll never understand, I’ll never get it. Especially what it means to be a black cop, or a black woman cop such as yourself. I see what you go through every day and I’ll always have your back but I’ll never fully understand it. I can see the wrong, just like I could see my friend’s pain from his kid’s death but I can’t feel it the same way. I understand it from a superficial standpoint and even a little bit deeper than that because of our relationship, but not the true depths of it. And I never will. I can gain some insights and get closer but, I will never fully understand. Shoot, there are people in your own community who hate you because you’re black and a cop and in your case, a female. But those same people who hate you, never in a million years would they want an all white, all male police force. Shit don’t make sense. Now don’t get me wrong me, as a fraternity we still have a long way to go when it comes to equality and fair chances internally. There’s still cops out there now who think you don’t belong on the street for no other reason than because you are a woman. You’d think that old-fashioned garbage thinking and those people would die off, but they’re poisoning the water of people who come up under them. People who are too blind to see through the nonsense and are unwilling to think for themselves. And there’s still a few bad apples who harbor an unnecessary and unwarranted fear of black people. Again certain shit just don’t make sense. But thankfully, right now it’s better than it has ever been. Now some people wouldn’t agree with that statement, but they’re not living in reality. When it comes to respect, sadly, we as a society lost that battle a long time ago.”
“I think that’s what the book was trying to get at. It’s why I wanted you to read it. That conversation you had with yourself when you read it and the conversation you just had with me, I think that was the point. Let’s not be afraid to talk through these uncomfortable topics, make some progress and gain some understanding of each other. We can’t fix the problem if we hide it under a rug and don’t address the issue. But the conversation has to be respectful. It won’t be easy, but it has to be respectful. It has to come from a good place. Did you know Sgt. O’Connor actually me the book?”
“I know Sgt. O’Connor. Even though the cop section wasn’t the focus of the book, it was only a section, he wanted to know what you thought of the cop part didn’t he?”
“When he handed it to me it was the first thing he brought up. He knows I like to read and expand my mind so I guess he knew I’d read it.”
“What are you saying partner, I don’t like to expand my mind?”
“What was the last book you read before this one Joe?”
They laugh together, knowing how funny the truth can be sometimes.
“Since we’re talking about cops, and Joe you know I love you, but when I don’t have this uniform on and I walk down the street or into a store, I’m still a black woman. There’s no way for me to escape that reality nor do I want to. Being a black woman is everything. But man you can see the difference in the eyes of the officers when a call comes through. From how they looked at me before. Then how everything changes once I show my badge.”
“Are you talking about last week?”
“This is more than just last week, but yeah last week was a reminder. A stark reminder I haven’t had in a while. Probably since before joining the force. It was a reminder that I’m still black. And to some people my blackness is a threat. My blackness still scares people. Not me. Just the color of my skin. Only if the world loved black people as much as they love black culture. But back to the point. This reminder I had to endure, this was perpetrated by us Joe. The same people we put our lives on the line for. The same people who both of us would rush towards and have rushed towards gunfire for. They laid me down on the cold wet street even though I told them I was a cop, told them I had my ID on me, told them where it was. In that moment they either didn’t care or thought I was lying. They gave me the same old refrain.”
“The, you match the description of…”
“Yeah that one. That bullshit excuse.”
“I know you’re mad Marie, but you know just like I know it is not a bullshit excuse.”
“Every black person doesn’t look the same Joe. So maybe the excuse isn’t bullshit but the follow through of it can be. Let’s be real here, we’re just two cops talking. As a force that’s supposed to be a fraternity we don’t stop white males the way we stop black males when a call comes over the radio. You know the stops are handled in two different ways by certain cops.”
“Like you said, by ‘certain cops’. Don’t impugn the whole force for the actions of a few.”
“Did you really just say impugn?”
“I did. You like my vocabulary don’t you. Impressive as shit aint it.”
“You can’t talk in such glowing terms about your vocabulary and then say aint and shit Joe. But I get your point. I’ll give it to you. I just did the same thing we hate the public for doing. But my point still stands. There are still cops to this day, even if only a few, but you know it’s more than a few who see color and react differently to that color whether it be black or brown versus white.”
“And why do you think that is?”
“Because we have been trained to think they are a threat. My people, black people we are a threat.”
“I have never been trained that way. Never had an instructor or a superior tell me anything close to that.”
“I didn’t mean trained in a formal way. At least not any more. I mean in a more subliminal way. Maybe we’ve been indoctrinated to this way of thinking? Maybe it’s been engrained on our minds by the constant push of a negative black narrative by the news media, TV, and the movies. By the way this narrative is being pushed and reinforced. Let’s not be naïve here. I mean the guy holding the most powerful office in the land called Mexicans; rapists, criminals, and drug dealers.”
“Maybe it’s because every time you arrest a black person you remember it more because you’re black. Maybe it’s because of the amount of black people we arrest.”
“You know that’s the stupidest shit you’ve said all day and you say a lot of stupid shit partner, I still love you though.”
“Why is it stupid?”
“Because we work in a predominantly black neighborhood, so of course the predominant amount of crime committed in that neighborhood is going to be committed by black people.”
“Ok. But think about it. No matter how you get there. If you’re arresting predominantly black people, then don’t you at some level start to look at them as a threat?”
“I don’t. Do you?”
“No. But I think for myself. I look at everyone as an individual. But I’m always thinking safety also. Mines and yours and whoever else I may be working with.”
“As you should. And let me tell you why that argument is b.s. And again let me say if you work in a predominantly black neighborhood, then of course the majority of the crime in that neighborhood is going to be committed by black people. But what you need and everyone needs to understand is there is only a small minority, a fraction of the neighborhood out there committing crimes. The overwhelming majority of the people, ninety nine percent of the people in that neighborhood are good, hard-working, law abiding citizens. You’re stereotyping the whole by the few. The whole neighborhood by the few rotten apples. The same way you didn’t like me stereotyping suburban cops or cops in general by the few who are still racist, the same stereotyping it is still being done to the neighborhoods we patrol, by us. Why not the opposite way around?”
“Because we’re cops. Our job is not to look for the good, it is to find the bad and remove the cancer from the rest of the healthy neighborhood.”
“But we don’t apply the same logic in other places. No one in a predominantly white neighborhood, where all the crime is being committed by predominantly white people is looking at the whole as criminals. Let’s be real here. It’s only when it comes to black and brown people.”
“Like what happened to you?”
“Yes, like what happened to me. Joe those ‘brothers’ of ours, they laid me down on the cold wet ground like I was a criminal, like I wasn’t part of the family. And they laughed at me when I told them I was a cop. They didn’t even know I was a female until they heard my voice. Then when they finally reached into my pocket and took out my ID, only then they were all ‘oh sorry, sorry you know how it goes. We were just being safe’. They saw a black person jogging down the street in a predominantly white neighborhood wearing a hoodie and thought the worse. And the worse part of it all, the terrible part, they were laughing like it was okay to treat me like that. To treat a human being like that.”
“Why’d you have a hoodie on?”
“Why did I have a hoodie on? It was raining Joe. And why does that make a difference? And I live in that neighborhood. I lived there before all these white people who grew up in the suburbs came back to the city and gentrified my neighborhood. And I’m the one being stereotyped, because I had a hoodie on. Fuck outta here.”
“Marie I wasn’t there. I wish I was but I wasn’t. And unfortunately you were and this happened to you. But answer me this. Would you have handled it differently if you were the cops that night or are you just mad because it happened to you and you’re somehow supposed to be immune to the realities of life? I’m not saying it’s fair, but I am saying it’s the way it is. And back to the bullshit excuse. You know just like I do more often than not it’s a reality. When a call comes in and all we have is a description, even an overly generic, probably racist, even if subliminally, whatever the description is we work it. And at the end of the day I’m sorry if I have to inconvenience someone for a few minutes. I’m sorry if I have to lay someone down on the street for me to assess the situation but I have a family to go home to and I’m not taking any chances. And you have someone to go home to and I never want to have to knock on your door and tell Mike you died, were shot, murdered on the job. We all get inconvenienced every day in all aspects of our lives, but everyone wants to take it out on the police who only want to make the streets safe and go home.”
“But it’s not only the call and the generic description. It’s the reaction to the person once the call comes in. Once you see the person and interact with them. We have officers scared to death out there. Scared to death of black and brown people for no reason other than because someone told them to hate them or be scared of them. Either when they were little or once they joined the force or somewhere in between. Some of them highly educated, very bright people who have been sheltered from the realities of the streets they patrol, who have no reason being on those streets. Whose book education never prepared them for the grit and the grime living and thriving on these cold hard streets. And on the other end, we have these dumbass cops who don’t have enough fear and respect for these streets and the bad guys who walk them trying to hide in and mingle with the good people. All these tough guy cops. Faking it, wanting to prove they are in charge pushing way over the lines and no one checks them. And even with the reports filed by the public, people filing official complaints, they still have guns and badges. I saw a sign the other day it said ‘Cops have been trained but it’s okay for them to panic and shoot while untrained civilians must remain calm with a gun stuck in their face.’ And we wonder why the public hates us right now? We’re giving them the ammo ourselves, us. Every time one of us does something stupid and we as a fraternity don’t stand up to it. Every time we try to brush it aside or under a rug. Every time we ok it or try to hide it, as if everyone doesn’t have a camera on their phone or as if every news organization isn’t going to go to court for the officer’s video. And don’t say it’s not fair for us to all be looked at by the actions of the few. Doesn’t that sound familiar? What’s the saying, the pot calling the kettle black.”
“You’re absolutely one hundred percent right, but you’re probably talking about less than five percent of the force nationwide. You know like I know that most of our brothers and sisters are good, competent, highly trained, highly qualified people. People who so happen to choose a profession for the right reasons and act accordingly.”
“I will definitely agree with you there. One hundred percent. But we have do something about the percent that’s not. Let me ask you another question.”
“Yeah another one” asked Marie through her laughter. “Joe, you’re a white guy right?
“Yeah I’m a white guy,” replied Joe through a chuckle of his own.
“From a small town right?”
“Originally, yup. From the middle of nowhere, population less than one thousand.”
“And how many people, because of where you came from, when you moved up here thought of you or your neighbors from the middle of nowhere as ignorant, uneducated hicks?”
Joe paused and didn’t reply.
“That’s my point right there, that pause. People have these preconceived misconceptions of other people and those things can be dangerous. And unfortunately for us, the good cops, the ninety-nine plus percent, we’re being judged on the actions of a few.”
“We’re here,” says Joe who then pulls the car over and parks on a block full of beautiful, single family homes.
Thank you for taking the time to read the Prelude to Book 2 in the Uncomfortable Conversation Series. Book 1 as well as other (Not so hard to read books) are available now through Amazon.
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