Why Nearly 50% of Black People Don’t Trust the Police

THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images
THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images

For most people in society, their interactions with the police range from nonexistent to fairly neutral: that time the sheriff found you and your friends in the woods messing around and sent you home without notifying your parents.

That time when the police came over and helped you get your cat out of your neighbor’s tree.

Or even that time when something did happen, and you called the police and they came, took notes, and left to pursue the case.

Despite my best efforts, this is not my experience with the police.

I’ve been detained and jailed for “meeting the description” of someone who robbed a liquor store. (The thief was a 6-foot-1, 200-pound, light-skinned black man — I’m 5-foot-6 and about 165 on a good day, with a dark chocolate hue.)

I’ve been pulled over in a vehicle dozens of times in my life. I’ve been pulled over in front of my own house on five separate occasions at four different houses in four states. I’ve had my car searched on the side of interstates all over America for drugs, weapons, and even smuggled humans in the trunk of my car.

And despite being pulled over all these dozens of times, I’ve gotten four tickets in my life — which means either I’m the luckiest person in the world or it’s something else.

When I was a teenager, the police tried to arrest me for being in my own home
The first time the police put me in handcuffs, I was 14 years old.

I’d just gotten home from a summer debate camp. My parents were out of town, and they’d left me the key to our Bay Area house under a rock in the backyard. I hopped the fence into the yard, moved away some brush behind the house, and grabbed the key from under the rock.

I unlocked the back door. A few minutes later I was sitting in the living room, watching TV and eating what I would have described as the world’s best Hot Pocket. All was well … until the knock at the door.

The fact that someone was knocking at all was quite strange: I’d been home less than an hour, the entire family was out of town and had been for quite some time, and even when they were home, we almost never had anyone show up unannounced.

“Who is it?” I asked through the door.

“Police,” the voice responded.

I opened the door. I was all of 4-foot-11 and 105 pounds of something not even close to muscle. I saw three officers standing on my front porch. It was apparent one of them had some beef.

He asked me who I was, and I told him. I informed him that this was my house, where I lived with my parents. He asked where they were, and when I told him they were on vacation, he became visibly upset and began asking me questions that, as a 14-year-old, I had no ability to answer in any meaningful way: Did I have proof of identification? Why was I lurking in the backyard? Why would my parents leave me alone for days on end? Where had I hidden the drugs? Could he search the house?

When I told them I had no proof that I lived there, they decided to sit me on the porch, in handcuffs, while they “figured it out.” Next thing I knew, they announced they were taking me to the police station. When I asked what I would be doing there, the officer told me, as nonchalantly as if he were telling me the baked beans were good, “We’ll just detain you in a holding cell until we get it all cleared up” — which sounded so ridiculous that I hardly believed him.

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Source: Vox | Doug Dennis