To Serve and Protect or To Prey and Attack

Jasmine Brown

Photo From Wikimedia Commons

“Can we all just get along?” were the somber words of Rodney King 20 years ago after he learned of the verdict of the four Los Angeles police officers that brutally attacked him on March 3, 1991. Soon following the acquittal of the four police officers sparked the “unfavorable” civil disobedient acts, known as the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. On April 29, 1992 America would witness the civil unrest in South Central that would cause the city millions of dollars in damages. Unfortunately, I believe law enforcement and policy makers who blamed these rioters had forgot the acts of civil disobedience that brought them to the day of the riots; police brutality.

Some people might think that we have come a long way since the King beating in 1991. I would have to agree in technology, medicine and even electing our first black president, Barak Obama. However, in the realm of men of color interaction with the police are still stagnant.

On Jan. 1, 2009, a black male’s interaction with BART Police caught on tape would end deadly. Oscar Grant, who was said to be in an altercation on the BART, or Bay Area Rapid Transportation, was escorted off the train, handcuffed and sat on the platform. As train riders looked on many had their phones out recording the “struggle” between BART Police Officers and Grant. The BART officer, Johannes Mehserle, thought he went for his Taser gun but reached for his firearm, aimed at the 22-year-old who was face down, and shot him in his back.

In 2010, Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to two years in prison, but those who saw the video for themselves knew it was murder. And just as those same civil disobedient acts occurred in LA, Oakland was soon to be a place for those angry about the verdict to riot.

Being a resident from Oakland, I could not grasp what I was witnessing on the television. I felt like this was my generation’s modern day LA Riot.

I guess those words of King’s in 1992, “Can we all just get along?,” did not resonate with the angry people who participated in the Oakland riots and police officers. The relations between the police officers and mainly men of color would remain a tough one especially after the death of Oscar Grant.

Personally, living in East Oakland after the Grant incident, every time I saw “To Serve and Protect” on the cars of police officers I just think “Yeah right!” It is really unfortunate that many people of color adopted the slogan “F… the Police.” It is like we have given up on the police who are there to serve and protect the community, when it seems like they just want to prey and attack.

Any person of color who has an altercation with an officer should not have to think this might not turn out good. We should be able to call 911 and expect them to come in an efficient amount of time and not 30 minutes to an hour later. Is it simply because of the bad perception Black and Brown people have within our society? Are the officers told, “Hey, you’re dealing with animals out there, so be extra hostile”? I guess there is some truth behind rapper Tupac’s provoking lyrics in “Changes” when he stated, “Cops give a damn about a negro? Pull the trigger, kill a n…. he’s a hero.”

Of course there are some people who might bring up the fact, how can these officers serve and protect when these people in the inner cities are killing each other and committing crimes. There is no excuse to the high crime rate in these cities, but then again if the police who are here to serve and protect is not doing that, people feel like why should we respect them?

There are so many systematic reasons why people who live in inner cities are committing these crimes, and there are sociological and psychological discussions for that, but when law enforcement is not holding up the standards to serve and protect then the dynamics of the relations between officers and the people will remain complicated and hostile.