Phil Smith Explains What it’s Like to Be a Black Police Officer
Phil Smith is one of the nicest, easy to get along with guys you'll ever meet. He's also a police officer with the Evansville Police Department. Phil is also black. That isn't an easy position to be in right now. We felt like it was important to give Officer Smith our platform to share his very personal feelings about his profession, and how much history has changed.
"It is very difficult to put all of my thoughts on this together but I will try. I have been approached privately by a few people asking me why I've not said anything about the tragedy of Mr. Floyd's death. Have I been impacted by it? I absolutely have. A lot of people have an opinion of me without really knowing who I am. This post will give insight into who I am and where I stand. And quite honest it may impact how people feel about me.
I watched a grown black man in so much distress that he called for his deceased mother for help. If that doesn't impact you to your core you have lost your humanity. I absolutely am against the tactics used and applied on Mr. Floyd. That being said I don't know the actual cause of death so I won't ignorantly speak on who or what killed him. I do know that whoever is responsible was on that scene whether they touched Mr. Floyd or not because they did nothing to stop it.
As a police officer my job is to protect people and their property using the US Constitution as my guide. There are four words repeated over and over again that I have to let guide me. Those words are the "totality of the circumstance". Each individual case has individual evidence that makes it what it is. Different people are involved and no two people think the exact same or view situations the exact same. That is something that separates us from machine. So to say that this particular case is a microcosm of police race relations may or may not be entirely accurate depending on if the officers were on that run at the same time with the same intent on killing Mr. Floyd because he was black. We can't read there minds and unless they have noted history of acts against blacks it's reckless to assume they were racist. So is policing different for blacks than it is for whites? Let's be honest that's what the argument really is. Nobody is speaking on behalf of Koreans, Latinos, Russians, ect... as it pertains to these issues. So let's pull the curtain all the way back. (This is the part where I may lose "friends.")
As a black man I have been seated on the ground in my clothes for purposes of "officer safety". Is it safer to deal with someone that's seated? It absolutely is. Have I, in this profession seated people as a safety measure? I absolutely have. But depending on where you live your experiences with police may look a little different. A basketball game with teens in a inner city is far more likely to get interrupted by law enforcement than in the suburbs. That's true I won't debate it with anyone. But who called the police in the first place to break up this hypothetical game?... Someone in that community. There are more white people in this country than any other race so to point out that "more white people" are killed by police is a face saving argument. Since slavery people have used the police as a tactic to deal with blacks. Don't think so? Look at the recent video of the lady making a false call to police about the big scary "African American". It happens. So instead of trying to explain it away accept it for what it is. Race in America is a huge hot button topic. I'm reminded of a time in college when i went to a club on the hip hop night. At the end of the night the off duty officer said clear the lot this isn't the South side. The very next night there was a live band and a "different" crowd atmosphere. Much different approach to the lot clearing that night... Why is that? Did he not like blacks? Or does his experience tell him different things with the two different crowds at the end of the night? I worked a third shift beat with a hip hop club that was down the street from from a non hip hop club. That entire year I dreaded Saturdays because I knew that I was gonna be dealing with some sort of chaos at the bar in my beat. Whereas I was only dispatched once to deal with the non hip hop club. It pissed me off because the problem bar was always filled with people that looked like me. Thus possibly giving fuel to my white counterpart co-workers to legitimately develop a certain perception of people that look like me. Now what perception they may have possibly developed I don't know because no one ever verbally told me.
Now to the activism that is on Facebook. I appreciate that people now have a platform to invoke thought to people all over. I just need a few of y'all to keep that same energy when race bating is dormant in the media. Meaning... in times where there isn't public outrage where are you? Where are you when it's time to put in an application and change police culture from the inside? I sat on the last 3 interview boards for my agency and had probably 8 black candidates total. Only 2 black females total. Where are you when these neighborhood meetings are going on? Where are you during city council meetings? Where are you during police merit board meetings? Where are you when community activist do calls for action? Where are you when citizens academies are going on? Where are you when school board meetings are going on? Where are you when coffee with a cop meetings are going on? Where are you when groups of moms ban together to walk the streets in an effort to curb violence in their neighborhoods? Where are you when black officers get threatened or called out of their names for doing their jobs? Where are you when a detective tries to get answers to solve a crime and get a family justice or closure? Where are you?!
I work with some damn fine BLACK police officers. I work with some damn fine WHITE police officers. And this is my message to us. If you stand by and won't address one of our own when we're in the wrong, you are part of the problem. And if you shun an officer for doing just that, you are part of the problem.
Like previously stated some may like this, some may not. These are my thoughts."
KEEP READING: 5 Children's Books to Kickstart a Conversation About Race