My father was my hero. My father IS my hero. My father enlisted in the Army as a young man seeking better opportunity. As any serviceman, he traveled the world, connecting with men and women from all walks of life. When he came home after four years, he put on a different uniform.
My hero’s new uniform included a badge and a gun. For over 36 years, my dad had the cleanest, most pressed uniform in the entire department. The way he presented himself in that uniform showed character and professionalism that any working person should strive to present of themselves. He made it a priority to always have a nice haircut. To always have his shoes shined. To ALWAYS walk like a man in charge of their fate of the day.
Growing up, there was a time when inmates would be given privileges to construct things. Christmas or birthday gifts consisted of prison-made jewelry boxes and picture frames. My dad had a way of supporting the work of the inmates and making sure they felt human. I remember he would record shows or sporting events and when I asked him why, he would say “they need something to watch.” Again, he made sure they were humanized.
Some of the best days of my childhood were spent visiting my dad at work. Everyone at that department were my heroes. I knew that their job was to arrest bad guys and keep me safe. Walking through the prison or the streets of my hometown, I never felt unsafe because I always knew my heroes would protect me.
In 2007, my hometown of Martinsville, VA, saw many of those heroes of mine indicted on federal charges of conspiracy to deal drugs, launder money, and weapons charges. The Sheriff and 12 officers facing charges (later being guilty) for doing more damage to our community than what they were sworn to do, serve and protect.
That was when I lost trust and respect for my father’s profession. That is when I woke up. If putting guns and drugs back on the street by law enforcement in such a small community can happen, I can only imagine the widespread corruption that happens in larger cities like Chicago and Detroit that contribute to the myth of “black on black” crime.
With each and every senseless murder of black men and women at the hands of law enforcement that goes without accountability, I lose more and more respect for the profession my father spent almost 40 years perfecting. It’s as if current police men and women are more concerned with the power than they are the respect. The power to shoot first, ask questions later.
We have officers patrolling neighborhoods and don’t seem to have an interest in the people they serve. Officers who either can’t or don’t know how to communicate with those they are sworn to protect. Officers who are threatened by the mere presence of a black body. When that fear is met with an ego, death is usually the result. Paid leave usually comes next.
I don’t respect that. I don’t respect the fact that if I’m ever pulled over, it’s no longer clear if I’m supposed to put my hands up, on the steering wheel, in my lap, or out of the window. I don’t know if I should tell my son to tape his information to his window, to his dash, or keep it beside him. Should we say our name or write it so we don’t talk in a threatening voice? Should we walk straight with confidence or sulk as if we are already defeated? I don’t know anymore. I no longer know what to teach my son. I can no longer protect him.
My father can no longer protect me. This is no longer his profession……