Women and Women of Color of Law Enforcement

Us against them. Them against us. Having a gun and a badge creates another category that’s almost untouchable; hard to get into fraternity, a cult, or just another gang that runs the street.

The Thin Blue Line.

A symbol of solidarity among police officers, the divide between civilians and criminals, and without them there would be chaos.

However isn’t always as easily clear-cut. Not always us versus them. Not everyone who wears the badge is simply a “brother in blue”.

My mother was a black woman who was officer and detective for the New York Police Department (NYPD) for 21 years. She worked in a predominately black neighborhood in the South Bronx. Black and woman placed her on an interesting side on that very thin blue line. It has also helped shape my world view.

She was extremely proud of the work she had done when she was an officer. For example, I remember the countless times she would pay for new winter coats for kids she would meet.

However my mother would recount a number of grievances.

There were times were higher-ups were openly racist, but treated her differently. She was a different kind of black. She wasn’t like the other kind of black folks they swore to protect in the community they enforced. She was educated. She was civilized.

Coded language for she wasn’t a nigger.

Whenever she had to correct them, that she was no less black then any other

It didn’t mater if she carried a badge and gun, she would never be part of the good ole boys club.

She was still other.

Even to the community she worked in she was other. There’s a strong mistrust between the black community and the police. As a black officer, you’re seen as an Uncle Tom or a coon.

Even with both these hurdles, my mother found a place to serve her community.

According to a report by the New York Times, only 16% of the NYPD is black. Compared to the fact that 23% of New York City residents are black.

As for gender, police departments still struggle in recruiting women. According to the most recent data by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, only 17% of the officers on the NYPD are women.

There’s also the sexism women in law enforcement have to deal with. A quick google search for woman police officers show photos categorized by level of attractiveness. Photos of scantily dressed women in Halloween costumes appear in the search.

With police brutality taking center stage, there have been arguments that hiring more women officers could curb the abuse.

“Studies also show that female police officers are more inclined to view their job as a public service than men do and are better at communication, de-escalation and trust building — all hallmarks of community policing.”

Data shows women are less likely to discharge their weapons. They’re more likely to use deescalating techniques where violence is rarely used.

Hiring more women cops isn’t the solution.

Using the death of Freddie Gray, one of the officers charged was a black woman, Sergeant Alicia White.

After the brutal deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos last December, there has been a trend on Facebook of people turning their profile photos to a graphic of a thin blue line between two black lines. There is also the #BlueLivesMatter hashtag, a direct response to the popularity of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Similar to the #AllLivesMatter, supporters of the police believe #BlackLivesMatter means anti-cop.

Completely disregarding the numbers of people killed by police.

Currently 770 people have been shot dead by the police this year. 28 of them black and unarmed. At least 70 people have been shot and killed by police across the United States within the past 30 days, according to Washington Post data.

Just this year, 98 police officers have died in the line of duty. There has been an outcry that there’s been a war on cops, because of a few very high-profile police deaths. Yet statistics show 2015 is in fact shaping up to be one of the safest years for law enforcement in a generation. The lost of a life, cop or civilian is still a tragedy in itself.

People are quick to say not all cops are bad. This is true. I know plenty of great cops, including my mother. Responding to the onslaught of police brutality, with a “what about the good cops” ignores the issues. The relationship between the community and law enforcement needs to change. Starting with the separatist language used by police officers. The Thin Blue Line needs to be eradicated. As collective, the dialogue needs to change from division to unity.

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