Recently, a colleague of mine shared an article on the D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program. D.A.R.E was developed in 1983 in Los Angeles as a means to foster positive relationships between area elementary school students and local law enforcement—specifically, the police. Once a week, local law enforcement agents would spend an hour with students teaching the students about drug and substance abuse prevention and teaching them how to resist peer pressure.
As I read the article, I began to think, what is being done today to foster positive relationships between students, particularly students of color, and law enforcement? What steps are being taken to restore faith in our justice system?
When I was a little girl, we were taught that the man in a blue is a friend to you. If you should become lost, feel frightened, or needed help in any form or fashion, you were to go to the nearest police officer and he/she would provide assistance. When the police were around, you had no reason to fear. The police were public servants that maintained law, order, and peace. The man in blue is a friend to you.
Of course, there was a time in history when people of color understood that some police officers donned white robes just like other members of hate groups. There was a time when the police were not trusted to protect and serve. During the 70’s and 80’s, there seemed to be a renewed trust in this level of bureaucracy that we understood to be the police. Long faded were the images of police officers turning hoses and attack dogs on innocent people who marched for their civil rights. The tide was turning and attitudes shifted. My generation, unlike the generations before me, was told, and we believed, that the man in blue was a friend to you.
Fast forward to today. Many of my generation are now parents and grandparents. As our children and grandchildren watch, Tweet, Instagram, and Facebook the news, they see image after image of a police force that is reminiscent of the police force that was in play generations before us.
A few weeks ago, a young African-American male that was involved in an accident, climbed from the wreckage of his car and walked towards police officers seeking assistance. As he approached the officers, he was shot upon 12 times with ten bullets hitting their mark—the young man. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
In another incident, a young African-American mother’s minivan was shot at several times by officers as she left the scene during a traffic stop. There were several children in the minivan that was on the receiving end of this gunfire.
While there are countless incidents that could be illustrated here, the one that continues to haunt African Americans, almost daily is the story of Trayvon Martin. Sadly, Trayvon Martin’s legacy is forever marred by the fact that his killer, George Zimmerman, has repeated run-ins with the law. A jury of Zimmerman’s peers acquitted him of the crime, the shooting, which took Trayvon Martin’s life. Before Zimmerman would stand trial, the police in his area, the men in blue, did not even arrest Zimmerman until many weeks later.
Don’t get me wrong. I do not feel that all police are bad. However, there was a time in history when it seemed as if there was some thought and there was a care as to how children viewed the police. After many years of running from police to escape the brutality that a youth might experience at the hands of those in society who were charged with protecting and serving, in 1983, someone thought that there should be a program to attempt to foster positive relationships between children and local law enforcement. It seems as if that sentiment is now lost. I ask you, is the man in blue still a friend to you?
2 thoughts on “Is the Man in Blue Still a Friend to You?”
The late 60s and early 70s were periods when there were very poor relationships between the police and the black community. After the “riots” of the late 60s and some of the confrontations of the 70s such as confrontations with the Black Panther Party, there was a move to recruit black police. Many of the black police that were recruited had a different perspective than many of their white colleagues. As these blacks moved up in the ranks, you had the development of community policing.
Programs still exist where police work with community groups and with young people, but many such programs have become victims of the trend toward budget-cutting of all social programs. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, many big-city police departments were forced to shift their emphasis and their budget priorities to fighting terrorism. If taxpayers don’t demand that community policing programs be retained and if the crime rate continues to decline, you will continue to see the trend of fewer programs that connect police officers to the communities they serve.
Just like we do not want all black men to be stereotyped as violent, we should not stereotype all police officers as brutal. The media will not show police officers doing good things, just like they do not show the good things happening in our communities.
That minivan incident was absolutely justified. What did the woman expect when she fled the scene, then resisted arrest? She’s lucky that neither she nor her son were killed. You don’t get to run from the cops, then fight the cops with impunity.
As for George Zimmerman, he may well be guilty of domestic violence, but he’s not guilty of murder. That’s why he was not arrested until the good preachers Al and Jesse forced the state to manufacture charges against him. In the Trayvon case, George became a victim of racial discrmination.