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Law Enforcement In DC – An American Perspective

The first time I went out in DC with some of the people in my seminar class, I heard one of those stories that you hope couldn’t be real. You hope the media invents these stories to stir up trouble. You hope there was another side. We’ve seen, in far more severe cases than the story I’m about to tell, that sometimes the world is just an unfair place and people, especially police, have the potential to be as bad as the media says they are.

The thing I love about my program is the diversity. There are people from every region, most races, religions, and especially a wide field of diverse viewpoints.  There are even a few students who don’t fall into the same age range as the rest of us. One of these older students, we’ll call her Joan, actually used to be one of DC’s finest. She is probably a good ten years younger than my dad, she’s a mom, and she is African American.

Now, Joan is probably one of the coolest people I have ever met. She is sassy and bold and not afraid to engage. She is definitely the type of strong, fiery women that I hope to be. I have learned in my very short time here, that she doesn’t take any crap.

She was walking up her street one day, obviously not in the finest neighborhood ever because those don’t really exist in the city. There are bad parts and there are okay parts and then there’s the Capitol. But most people who live in a “safe” area in DC actually live in Maryland or Virginia. So as she walked up, she saw a neighbor boy she knew being stopped by a cop.

Joan knows her rights. Hell, she is a cop so she has to know her rights. And more importantly, she knew his rights. She asked the officer, and I can see her doing it in her sassy and bold way, why he was being stopped. It was obvious to Joan here that her friend was being stopped because of the color of his skin.

The officer, who was obviously feeling some sort of power trip, then told her he was going to search her person as well and that they were both to turn out their pockets.

Now, the handy dandy fourth amendment was invented for exactly this kind of bull. That’s when Joan went to go get her badge to show this power-tripping idiot that he was way out of line. When she got back, her friend was on the ground, being held down by the cop.

So my bada$$ friend flashed her badge and got that jerk written up.

Protecting our fourth amendment, however, doesn’t seem to go unpunished?

It wasn’t too long later that she found that same cop searching her car randomly one day, and filing a complaint against her. She was the one who got in trouble in the end. Joan went on to talk about just the kinds of corruption and profiling that go on in her old job.

Sometimes, when I rage about Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin, people who disagree with me will make excuses. They’ll talk about the media; say it’s blowing the situation out of proportion. They’ll talk about specifics of the case, saying maybe this or that happened. But mostly what angers me is that all of those arguments judge these issues on a case-by-case basis and not as systemic problems. It is impossible to entertain such arguments after spending time with my friend.

This was the first impression I was given of the DC police and the fact that it came from someone who loved her job as a cop gave it real weight. In the times where Ferguson and other instances of racial profiling and police brutality are present, we hear a lot of rhetoric about supporting our police officers. Hearing Joan’s perspective, however, has made it abundantly clear that there doesn’t have to be a difference. It isn’t “cop-hating” to believe that justice is deserved for those whose lives were lost because of the color of their skin. It is not anti-police to believe in systemic injustice.

Joan and I agree that the place the police officers hold in our society is too important to protect those who disgrace it.

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