A Yorktown Police Officer’s Take on BLM

National Tension Between “Black Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter”

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“Black Lives Matter.”  A slogan.  A hashtag.  A social movement.  A political demonstration.  An all-encompassing term for those who publicly declare that black lives matter.  With its loosely structured definition, “Black Lives Matter,” also known as the BLM Movement, has been largely questioned by individuals.  The movement was founded in 2013 by three black women: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi.  It began with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter in response to George Zimmerman’s acquittal and Trayvon Martin’s murder in 2012.  As stated by the founders, the movement’s goal is for advocacy, to create protests against racial discrimination and “build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities.”  In just a year from its inception, the Movement grew nationally after the deaths of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Missouri.  Over several months of 2020, the movement has seen a resurgence in public interest due to George Floyd’s death in May following the use of excessive force by law enforcement.  With protests starting in Minneapolis, they slowly spread across the country and subsequently the world.  “Black Lives Matter” may have even become the biggest movement in U.S. history.  In response to BLM, a countermovement named “Blue Lives Matter” or “Back the Blue” emerged.  This countermovement immediately drew criticism, with many arguing that one’s occupation does not compare to the significance of someone’s racial identity.  Nonetheless, many support “Blue Lives Matter” due to the perceived spread of anti-police sentiments around the country.

In the summer of 2020, with America and the rest of the world’s eyes fixated on this issue, a polarization of viewpoints emerged with many siding with one movement or another, with no room for gray area.  Many celebrities, such as Seth Rogen, Lebron James, and Billie Eilish, have voiced support for the Black Lives Matter Movement but not without facing criticism, the main argument being that celebrities should not have a say in politics.

Focusing on our own community, Yorktown has shown contrasting ideas, with both “Black Lives Matter” and “Back the Blue” support and marches occurring, as well as people posting their affiliations through Facebook, Instagram, apparel, and public signs and posters.  There has been deep disagreement, yet, not many constructive conversations. 

Notably, at the class of 2020’s graduation, George Yancopoulos, the co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, caused an uproar over his speech.  Both students and parents complained, most finding it inappropriate for a high school graduation when he touched on the murder of George Floyd and the trend of using the police as “convenient scapegoats” in a larger systemic issue.  Being a part of the audience, comfortably seated inside our cars on a rainy day, people began to honk their horns at the divisive statements which led to Yancopoulos calling it “another act of cowardice.”  With no one completely sure if the honks were a sign of support or disagreement, the remarks made by Yancopoulous, appropriate or not, are yet another display of the tension surrounding these complex issues.  With a global media publication as well known as Forbes picking up the story shortly after Yancopoulos’s speech, it clearly shows the strained nature of discussing race and the issues that encompass it.

Yorktown Heights is a politically diverse community when analyzing The New York Time’s data from the 2020 election, so the withdrawn communication around these topics isn’t surprising.  Consequently, from the myriad of opinions where your best friend could have drastically different viewpoints from you, not many students wanted to be interviewed on record.

The police force is a complex industry and difficult to understand from an outsider’s perspective, hence, an officer was willing to have a discussion.  Yorktown police officer, Danny David has been a part of the Yorktown Police Department since August of 2018.  Being both Black and a member of law enforcement, Officer David was willing to share his views on the racial tension that surfaced between the “Black Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” Movements.  Furthermore, my questions were posed:

 

1) What stereotypes exist within the general public about police officers that you deem unfair or unjustified?

The stereotype that all police officers are bad/racists/physically aggressive and just looking to violate people’s rights.  I truly believe that is far from the truth.  There may be officers throughout the country that may fit this description, BUT that does not represent all of the good officers who are out making a positive change within the community.  Especially here in Yorktown.  If we can go a day where we don’t have to deal with someone who’s physically combative, then that is a GREAT day.  I think people have a misconception that the majority of police encounters end in use of force when that is far from the truth.  We respond to so many calls for service everyday, and a large majority of those calls do not end in use of force.  Use of force is ALWAYS the last resort. At the end of the day, we all wish to get home safely. 

 

2) What’s something you wish people knew about being a police officer?

I wish people understood that police officers are HUMANS.  What I mean by this is oftentimes people see a uniform and think we’re robots who go out and enforce laws and are unaffected by some of the hardships we see throughout our careers.  I think this misconception allows people or the media to crucify police officers as a whole.  I wish people saw us more as humans who are trying to do a tough job to the best of our ability, like anyone else.  After we leave work, we go home to our families, we go out with friends, we play sports, we go to the gym, we laugh, we cry, we bleed.  This job is not easy, we constantly see the ugly side of the world throughout our careers and sometimes it can take a toll.  We don’t always agree with every law, but it’s our job to enforce it.  We too, want to see change, and unity with the community.  We are not the police officers in Minneapolis.  We are the officers eating ice cream with the community, we are the officers helping the elderly up off the floor who are not physically capable of picking themselves up, we are the officers providing CPR to your loved one, we are the officers going from call to call to ensure the communities are safe.  We love the job and we continue to suit up everyday to be a positive influence within the community.

 

3) To what degree does fear play in police officers doing their job?

I don’t know if many would admit to it, but I say it’s very prevalent.  Whether it’s a car accident, the fear of the unpredictability of a domestic call, conducting a traffic stop and not knowing the type of person that’s behind the wheel or what’s in the car.  We live in a climate where the fear of being ambushed while sitting in your patrol car for simply wearing the uniform is very prevalent.  Police Officers die everyday in the line of duty, so all of these incidents can be scary.

 

4) What is your feeling about people wanting to “defund the police?” Do you think more resources would benefit the police force?

I think there has been a lot of misunderstanding regarding the term “defund the police.”  If that means utilizing other resources such as social workers to deal with mental health calls, then I’m all for it.  It wouldn’t be a bad idea to work alongside other agencies to accomplish a goal.  For those who take the meaning of “defund the police” to mean removing funding and resources from police, then I think that does society a great disservice.  Removing funding from police officers means less police on the streets, it means removing police units who are tasked with going after big drug dealers, it means less training for police officers in which society says we need more of.  It means stacking the odds against officers and giving criminals the upper hand.  It means making the community less safe.

 

5) What steps do you think can be taken to improve the relationship and communication between police officers and the community they serve?

I think the ability to understand each other and ask questions.  Questions such as the questions you are asking now to obtain a deeper understanding.  As a department, we often host community events in which we invite the entire community to come out and engage with us over coffee or ice cream.  This also allows us to have more insight of how we can help our community we serve.  I believe people naturally fear the unknown. If we created more dialogue opportunities and communicated more, it will breed more understanding, empathy and trust between police and the community they serve.

 

Policing in America is evidently a conversation starter with starkly different takes when recognizing voices from “Black Lives Matter,” “Back the Blue,” and actual police officers; however, through conversation, many points parallel each other, and all voices contribute to the discussion concerning reform and the state of officers in American society today.