Over the course of the past year while many different groups weighed in with opinions surrounding the epidemic of African Americans being killed by police, there is one group that has been relatively silent. Police officers have generally closed ranks and defended the racially-motivated killing of unarmed African Americans, and have been brutally airing their contempt for anyone demanding accountability from law enforcement whether through protests, demonstrations, or public displays of support for demonstrators. However, there has been precious little comment from African American police officers, and according to a recent report, there is a reason that reinforces the assertion that many white police officers are racists.
The report by Reuters revealed that Black New York City police officers admitted they are regularly racially profiled by white officers and worse, are victims of the same violent abuse and mistreatment as nearly every other African American male. The report focused on 25 Black male policemen; ten currently serving the public and 15 retired cops. Not surprisingly, all but one of the Black cops reported they were victims of racial profiling in and out of uniform. The report defined racial profiling as a law enforcement officer “using race or ethnicity as grounds for suspecting someone of having committed a crime.”
The black police officers said their experiences were the same type of racial profiling that cost Eric Garner his life after he was swarmed by police and choked to death for the capital crime of selling loose cigarettes. The officers reported regularly being pulled over by police for no reason (multiple times for most), being stopped in public and frisked, thrown into prison vans, and being physically assaulted and threatened by white cops. The issue is not reserved to the New York police department, and the threat of retaliation or retribution is why the abuse goes largely unreported; not that the media or general population would care if it was reported.
The officers interviewed for the report related “having their heads slammed against vehicles and having white officer’s guns being brandished in their faces.” One recently-retired NYPD sergeant reported he was stopped while jogging by white police officers and only prevented a rapid escalation into violence because he had his department issued police ID close at hand. The retired sergeant is suing the NYPD for being racially harassed on the job; not for what police told him was being stopped and accosted like a common criminal for being “suspicious while jogging in jogging clothes.”
In the same manner there is no recourse, or formal complaint process, for African American males subjected to racial profiling and police abuse, the Black officers reported they had been racially profiled by white officers exclusively; about one third said they made “some form of complaint to a supervisor” to no avail. In fact, all the officers except one said that after reporting being racially profiled, either on the job or out of uniform, “their supervisors either dismissed the complaints or retaliated against them by denying them overtime, choice assignments, or promotions.” Some officers were so aware that racial profiling is deeply entrenched in the system that they refrained from reporting their experiences because “they feared certain retribution.”
Besides protesting the unwarranted murder of unarmed African American boys and young men, people are protesting the indignation of being stopped by white police for no reason and without the ability to lodge formal complaints. Black police officers are in the same situation according to a former NYPD captain and now Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. Adams said he was stigmatized and retaliated against throughout his 22-year career for reporting racial profiling and police brutality that informed him “There is no real outlet to report the abuse.” According to Adams, when and if a Black officer does make a report to the Internal Affairs Bureau, their identities are leaked to the rank and file and it leads to more abuse. The consensus among the Black police officers is “If I was white, it (abuse) wouldn’t have happened,” and that according to the racist police attitudes claiming innocent African American lives, “That could have been any one of us.” There is an indication that what is happening to African America males at the hand(s) of racist cops is not going to stop because racial bias is firmly entrenched in the population.
According to research from social psychologists at Stanford, Yale, and John Jay College of Criminal Justice, there is “implicit racial bias in the American psyche that correlates Black maleness with crime.” In fact one of the researchers, John Jay professor Delores Jones-Brown cited a 2010 N.Y. State task force on police-on-police shootings that found over the past 15 years, Black officers “suffered the highest fatalities in encounters with white officers who ‘mistook’ them for criminals.” It is beyond reason that a white police officer could possibly “mistake” a Black officer for a criminal when they are wearing a police uniform; it is “not so-friendly fire” and not a mistake. It is apparent that police officers steeped in racial animus and white supremacy just like shooting, choking, and abusing African Americans whether they wear a police uniform, sell loose cigarettes, shop at Walmart, or jay-walk in Ferguson Missouri and there is evidence that aggressive (read racist) policing is intensifying.
John Jay professor Jones-Brown cited a 2010 New York State report from the N.Y. City Comptroller revealing the exact kind of excessive force that killed Eric Garner has risen by 214% in the past ten years. It has rightly led to an increase in lawsuits against the city that has cost taxpayers $64.4 million in 2012 alone; a 75% increase. Still, the racial profiling continues unabated with no regard for the loss of innocent Black lives whether they are police officers, teenagers walking in Ferguson, or selling loose cigarettes.
It is a sad state of affairs, and a damning commentary on this nation, that Black police officers are subjected to the same abuse, racial profiling, job discrimination, and sheer hatred regardless they put their lives on the line for the public just like white cops. Of course, it would be errant to assert that all white cops are racists, but one hears about as many white cops speaking out against racial profiling, or killing unarmed African American males, as Black officers reporting they are victims of racially-driven abuses. It is probable that if they did speak out more, either the media would ignore them, they would lose their jobs, get shot by other cops, or the racist public would champion the white cops who pose as much of an existential threat to Black police officers as they do every other African American male. It is damn high time this nation’s population come to grips with a basic fact; America is inherently racist and the disease is an epidemic.