The nation is up in arms over the recent spate of police brutality incidents, such as San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department deputies who kicked and pummeled a detained suspect. South Carolina police officer Michael Slager was charged with murder after he gunned down Walter Scott, an unarmed Black man fleeing a traffic stop.
However, it’s not just members of the public who are upset. Black cops are also reportedly incensed over the actions of their fellow police officers. Bryan Pendleton, president of the National Black Police Association western region, describes the incidences as “outrageous.”
“All the cops I spoke to were outraged,” Pendleton said. However, Pendleton said the problem of police brutality has been around for a long time.
“I don’t think it’s anything new,” Pendleton said. “It’s been going on forever.”
Pendleton said now people have video evidence to corroborate the allegations which have been around for a long time.
Pendleton is a retired San Diego Police Department (SDPD) officer. He grew up in the “hood,” not having a great relationship with the police, but decided to join when he needed a summer job. He started off as a community services officer which eventually led to a 33-year career.
According to Pendleton, being a Black police officer is not always an easy task. They get criticised by the Black community and are viewed with suspicion by their fellow officers, when they speak out against police abuse.
“Black cops are looked at as traitors (when they speak out),” Pendleton said.
He pointed out that the San Diego Police Department is still struggling to find officers who reflect the communities they patrol. According to Pendleton, about 6 percent of the SDPD is Black.
This leaves minority neighborhoods to be policed by officers who may not understand the community. Pendleton said in many cases these officers’ views of the community may stem from what they have seen on TV and from other older officers.
“A large number of them deal with us based on what they have heard,” Pendleton said.
According to Pendleton, police departments can improve community relations by adopting a customer-service model. He said police departments need to ask themselves what kind of level of service are they providing to the community.
“This is not reinforced,” Pendleton said. “This needs to be hammered home, not once but every 18 months.”
Pendleton also said the Black community needs to be more proactive when dealing with the police, whether it’s reporting crimes, complaining about abuse or even joining the force. However, he admits it’s difficult to recruit Black officers in this current climate.
“It’s hard to convince Black people to join law enforcement,” Pendleton said. “The numbers are dwindling.”
Like Pendleton, Duane Allen Jr., president of the Black Peace Officers Association of Los Angeles, believes the Black community should take a proactive view towards law enforcement.
Allen has been with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for 28 years and describes it as “a great career.”
“When I graduated from the Sheriff’s Academy it was the proudest day of my life,” Allen said.
Allen said the recent incidents of police brutality and fatal shootings are very troubling.
“There doesn’t appear to be any legal justification for shooting Mr. Scott in the back,” Allen said. “Using deadly force has to be the last resort.”
According to Allen, the South Carolina shooting was discussed in great detail by deputies in his department.
“These type of incidences cast a dark cloud over all of us,” Allen said.
However, Allen said the fact that the local District Attorney’s office in South Carolina was quick to file charges against Slager indicates how seriously they take the incident.
Allen is taking a proactive approach to improving community relations between the police and the community. His church teaches a workshop educating young Black men how to deal with the police when they are stopped. He also encourages young them to get involved with the Explorer program and consider a career in law enforcement.
“If you’re part of the organization, you can make a positive change,” Allen said.
Allen also believes using body cameras can help improve encounters between the police and the community. He said deputies at the Sheriff’s Department’s Century station are part of a pilot program testing body cameras. The deputies have requested them and say cameras encourage members of the public to behave better.
“Lawsuits are going down because people can’t file false charges,” Allen said. However, Allen added using body cameras raises legal issues and there is always the challenge of finding storage space for all the video files created.
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