An officer I worked closely with told me that I would never make Sergeant. He believed I had the capability to lead a squad because he felt I had the integrity and drive for it. He let me know the reason that I could not reach the Sergeant level was because our Captain did not believe Black men could lead and he had a lot, if not all, of the influence in the final promotional decisions.
Never mind that the President of the United States and Leader of the Free World™ at the time was a Black man. It was federal-level affirmative action that got him into office, the Captain would jeer. That Captain was the son of a former Chief. A lot of the officers thought he was an unqualified idiot. Myself included but I would add that he was racist as hell too.
When I started, I became just the sixth Black officer in the department at the time…out of nearly 1200. I met 4 of the other five at my academy graduation. Out of all five, only one had been with the department less than ten years. Only one was a Sergeant…after fifteen years on the job and several attempts at the Sergeant’s test. I believe all of these men were highly capable, strong leaders, and good training officers.
I will spell it out: my Captain was white. His grandfather was on the department and made a name for himself. To some, policing is something passed down through generations. From my experience, it is not. Nepotism is not ability nor skill. It is just dumb luck for them and misfortune for the rest of us. Departmental policy is dictated by people like this. Police unions are headed by people like this. The “that’s the way we’ve always done it” crew.
How is that working out for us?
I learned a lot from those five other Black officers in my first few years. They shared plenty of good advice that my dumb-ass didn’t actually hear until years later. I’m going to share those at another time and more about that Captain and his son too. Today, there are more pressing matters.
Yesterday and today have been difficult to parse. I know that I don’t normally write about what is happening this moment or even today and I want to make an exception because of the NOW. At the time of this writing, I don’t know exactly what is happening and I am deeply concerned.
Hopefully, I don’t add to your anxiety nor mine. I just want you all to know that we really are in this together and I still have hope. Because WE must. We cannot lie down no matter the outcomes. Everything is riding on us continuing to fight because future generations depend on us.
We, and the work, are not done yet.
McSquirrel yada, yada, yada.