Recently, the world witnessed a murder trial involving former police officer Derek Chauvin who was witnessed by the world as he knelt on the neck of a Black male suspect who was accused of allegedly passing off a counterfeit currency.
The act that was committed lends itself to much other police brutality where officers have escaped consequences. Is it the body camera footage, private cell phone footage, or simply the publics’ exhaustion of these acts, why he was convicted shortly following closing arguments?
Perhaps the “Blue Wall of Silence” was overshadowed by calls for justice. I understand the publics’ frustration very well, as I too am frustrated with the criminal justice system.
It is further troubling when you hear officers (White officers) complaining that the involved officers should not have been fired and subsequently charged for the death of George Floyd. Sadly, when a citizen is responsible for the death of a police officer, the police professionals and the citizens call for an arrest and prosecution of those responsible. Why should things be any different for the Black, and Latino citizens in this country?
I have been an advocate for those who are not able to articulate their negative police encounters where some in Middlesex County have been told by officers “[Expletive] get out of my town, go back to Newark where you came from” and on another occasion, “We don’t want your kind over here, go back across the highway where you belong.”
When you also have officers and superior officers uttering, “The town has gone to [expletive] due to [expletive]” at a police union function, it undermines the efforts of many good citizens who are trying to repair the negative images of what a police officer is.
When the negative behaviors and the continued criminal history checks continue on African American motorists to this day, we can never unite and work to repair the wrongs.
Recently I spoke to a female citizen who experienced a negative encounter with a local police officer who mistook her for a Hispanic female while walking home in Birchwood Court in North Brunswick. Her experience was not a shocker to me, as I have spoken out about these negative behaviors of line officers and supervisors to the police administration.
Will it take another death or serious injury of a citizen in a suburban town for real change to take place?
Some of those who hold ranking positions are ill-equipped and lack empathy for certain citizens who have been the victims of social conflicts, as witnessed weekly through the media outlets. In some cases, these leaders acquired their positions through outside intervention, as opposed to having the requirements necessary to fulfilling the title they acquired, thus making them illegitimate in the role that they serve.
As it was echoed recently, perhaps acquiring my Ph.D. and the research behind it could have caused me to believe that I experienced negative treatment in my workplace. Then if such a correlation could be drawn, it must be true if we say that a department that continues to violate the rights of the minority citizens is the direct result of a department whose leaders are illegitimate and unfit to lead effectively when dealing with social conflict issues in their respective jurisdiction.
That’s a plausible theory that should be explored before something tragic happens to a citizen due to poor leadership as demonstrated in some of the high-profile cases.
Just as the nation tries to correct the wrong that is divisive, many police leaders have been derelict, as they not only contribute to the problems in their respective township between the minority citizens but have been irresponsible and vindictive towards officers who report the wrongs committed by officers and superior officers.
We must stop being focused only on making more money, special assignments, and ranks at the cost of depriving others of their liberty.
Regardless of your ethnicity as a police officer, if your colleague or a citizen reports something that you also witnessed as a potential violation or know about a violation and fail to act or support your colleague who reports an act, you are just as wicked as those who committed the evil act.
In addition, I also ask all citizens to simply respect the police officers who give a command regardless of what you may think about the command. Your failure to do so may result in consequences that you cannot handle or survive.
I witnessed wrongs committed by my colleagues in a New Jersey police department, and upon compiling proofs of the wrongs and speaking about it publicly, my former police union president and his followers placed calls to their union lawyer in a show of solidarity and retaliation to remove me from the union where I have paid my dues in that local for 18 years.
That swift action by them (president, union members and Superior Officers Association members) on Feb. 13, 2020, demonstrated their cowardice and poor moral compass as they targeted me for reporting acts of racial profiling against African Americans and Latino citizens.
Our police officers are humans as well, and also have families to go home to. Many citizens are unaware of the responsibilities and laws that an officer must enforce. It is your responsibility as a citizen to be law-abiding, and if you feel as though you were violated, report the incident to the police department’s Internal Affairs unit or your respective prosecutor’s office upon being released from the field inquiry or motor vehicle stop.
As in Black Lives Matter, it also matters for all lives, and especially in your respective communities. If we continue to harm our neighbors at an alarming rate without expected consequences, then how do you expect others and the police to respect your respective race?
I write this editorial piece from my heart, as I am tired of hearing and reading about the wrongs that were committed by my colleagues across the country, and hearing colleagues and professionals being dismissive towards the minority race when they complain about their experience with a police officer.
We can never bridge a dividing gap between law enforcement and the minority citizens if we continue to treat the minority class of citizens as though they are inferior to the majority race.
As a police officer and a department which prides itself as stars and heroes, you have an obligation through your sworn oath, to do the right thing and stop following the consensus, and instead, be the consensus.
Dr. Michael Campbell is a resident of Howell. He is a former police officer with the North Brunswick Police Department.