A Change is Gonna Come

Welcome to my first blog. Since you are reading this I’m assuming you are either my mother or just very bored. Nevertheless, thanks for reading.

I want to discuss a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately. Today I saw a video that makes me want to transform my feelings on this topic into words for you to read and hopefully give some of your own remarks and feedback on. My goal isn’t to change anyone’s opinion on the topic nor is it to make myself look or feel good. I just feel like it is an important public issue that deserves discussion and honesty.

Police brutality is no new debate topic. From Rodney King to Freddie Gray, police brutality has proven time and time again to be real. It is no longer a surprise to hear about police harming and even killing unarmed, nonviolent ALLEGED lawbreakers. Police brutality is real. And it is not okay.

I have yet to bring up race, and I really don’t want to. But I will say one thing about race and I promise not to bring it up for the rest of the post.

Black people are not making this up.

Today I watched, shared, and retweeted a disturbing video. The video was taken in a classroom of a South Carolina high school. It was a 15 second video, so the events before and after the video are not yet certain, as not much new information as been released yet. But I didn’t need to know all the facts to realize that what occurred in the video was not okay. In the video, a police officer is seen telling a young female to get up and leave the classroom with him (she was reportedly being “verbally disruptive” and “not cooperating”, which are of course vague terms but it does sound like she was not acting appropriately. The police officer quickly grabs the girl’s arm and neck and the girl sort of flinches and shows slight resistance (as would I if my neck was grabbed). After this 5’4″ 100 pound girl flinches, the police officer (who is a self-proclaimed “body builder” with videos on his Facebook showing him squatting over 900 pounds) proceeds to grab the girl, throw her down while she’s still sitting in her desk, and then drags her out of the classroom. This all happened in about 6 seconds, and in those 6 seconds, not only was that girl not treated like a lady; this girl wasn’t even treated like a human. You can watch the video below:

One of the students who was present in the classroom during the incident went to twitter to give his insight and provide some more facts. He said that the girl was pretty new to the school and very quiet; she didn’t talk much because she hadn’t made a lot of friends. The student said that after the incident, the class was confused because they had no idea why the student was forced out of the classroom. The teacher told them that she was in trouble for something, but the students didn’t think it could be too bad since they didn’t know about it. When asked why he and the other students didn’t say anything or try to intervene, the boy said they were shocked and scared. He also said that one additional female student was handcuffed for standing up for the girl (I don’t know if she was actually taken into custody, but she was handcuffed). Later that day, it was discovered that the girl had refused to get off her cellphone in class. After the teacher asked her multiple times to get off her phone, the teacher then contacted an administrator. The administrator had no luck with the female student. That’s when the officer in the video comes in.

I believe that people should comply with an officer’s requests/orders. But I do not believe that we as people should ever feel bullied or threatened into being submissive to an officer simply because they have a badge and can more than likely get away with it.

Whenever I was a young child growing up, I absolutely loved to argue. It was challenging and I was good at it. At parent teacher conferences, many of my teachers would tell my parents that I would talk back a lot. I also would backtalk my parents a lot (sorry mom and dad, really). Many people looked at that in a negative way, like I had no manners, no respect, etc. I disagree with that notion and I’ll explain why.

I don’t think I was talking back most of the time. I simply think I was disagreeing. My arguments always contained valid substance. I wouldn’t just back talk my teachers for no reason. I’m not that big of a shit head, I promise. I truly believe that I had a different way of thinking than other kids did. I would always question everything that was told to me. Because often adults will tell kids something, and when the kid asks why, the adult says, “Because I said so.” I never accepted that answer. That is pretty weak, adults. If you are going to tell me something I can’t do, you better have a dang good reason why.

Growing up, children are taught that their parents, teachers, etc. are always right. And if children verbally disagree then they are back talking and being disrespectful. That isn’t how we should teach our children. That kind of teaching is what causes submissive children to turn in to submissive adults. Adults who think that the authority is always correct. Adults who can watch a video of a police officer whose body resembles a Division 1 college football linebacker slam and drag a young high school girl like she was a doll. All because the girl was “verbally disruptive” and “not cooperating”, as well as the officer’s police department admitting in a statement that the girl was not a physical threat. If the girl wasn’t obeying your order, you could have grabbed her shoulders and lifted her up to show her that you aren’t messing around. Show her that this is not a joke. That would have been okay. On what planet is it protocol for an officer to slam and drag an unharmed and nonviolent girl across an entire classroom?

Please imagine that this video was of the child’s parent slamming and dragging their child because the child was being verbally disruptive and not cooperating. That parent would be arrested and the child taken into the State’s care by 5 o’clock that day. Now how could a child’s parent get arrested for the incident but not a police officer? After all, police officers are paid for with the peoples’ taxes. We are literally paying their salaries so they will keep us safe. Sadly, police officers’ approval ratings are quickly dwindling in light of recent events, all thanks to a very small percentage of police officers overstepping their authority.

Do I hold police officers to a higher standard than I hold regular civilians? You’re damn right I do. Because being a police officer is important. It is honorable. And it should be respected. Police officers should have higher moral standards than a normal civilian has. After all, they are risking their lives to protect all of us. Which is what baffles me. The small percentage of “bad cops” are risking their lives every day to protect people too, all while bullying, assaulting, and profiling any individual they want. I’m sure their motives are different. Some men crave power. Others just love bullying people. They love being mean to others because it gives them some feeling of accomplishment and importance. But why would you risk danger every day while receiving an unflattering (and disgraceful – police, firemen, and teachers deserve much more respect and money) salary, all because of what little perks they gain from the job? Personally, if I was a police officer, it would be because I was truly passionate about the position. Because it’s definitely not an easy job nor is it a safe one. I just feel like it would be a tough job to do if you weren’t truly passionate about it.

Growing up in Duncan, Oklahoma, I’ve been fortunate to be around and have relationships with Duncan police officers and other law enforcement in town. My dad has been Duncan’s city attorney for over 20 years, so I’ve been around them throughout my whole life. Joe Shoemake has been with the Duncan police department for a long time (sorry I don’t know how long). He was also my youth league baseball coach for about 3 seasons when I was younger. I have a lot of respect for him because he had a lot of influence on my life when I was at a difficult age. He was a great coach and mentor to me. He happens to be in law enforcement, and I have the upmost respect for him because I know what kind of person he is; and I know that he takes pride in his job.

I’ve also known Duncan officers Julio Alvarez, Joe Lard, Chisholm Hale, Christian Archer, and Jarrod Bishop for years. I usually encounter them when they’re off-duty, but I also know they all have the kind of character that we want and need in police officers. So thank you, guys. I hope you know that I always fully support you.

Whenever I first started speaking out against police brutality on social media, I never imagined that I would receive any backlash from it. If I shared a police brutality video, I would think it was something that every single person would agree with me on. Because it was that obvious to me that it was wrong. But it turned out that the majority of my Facebook friends wholeheartedly disagreed with me. They wouldn’t even take my opinion into consideration. I was just a sensitive liberal to them.

About a month ago, I got a private message on Facebook from a guy who is a little older than me whom I’ve known and respected for many years. He asked me why I promoted hatred and disrespect towards cops. He also said that I shouldn’t speak out against police officers on social media because of my dad’s job, saying it made him and me look bad. I expressed how I have the upmost respect and admiration for police officers. I just want to see every one of them held to the high standard that they agreed to when they took their police oath.

Jon Stewart sums up my thoughts perfectly.

Jon Stewart

That is the absolute truth.

Let’s say for argument’s sake that 95% of police officers are “good cops” who do their job with honor and dignity. That only leaves a mere 5% of “bad cops” across the country. The most recent estimates I could find online said that there were around 900,000 police officers currently employed in the United States. That means there are an estimated 45,000 police officers in the US that regularly take advantage of their power and use it negatively. There is absolutely no logical reason why that number wouldn’t alarm me. That is 45,000 people who have solemnly sworn to protect the country and its citizens. Theoretically, if there are 900,000 police officers, there should be 900,000 “good cops”.

I respect police officers; I am thankful for them. I’ve put thought into pursuing law enforcement too. I think it would be a challenging but rewarding profession that could bring someone a lot of joy. So if you think that just because I speak out so strongly against police brutality means I am against all police officers, please stop reaching. Your case holds no water.

I know there are people who feel the same as I do but are too afraid to speak out because they know they are in the minority. I’ve had multiple people private message me on Facebook saying that exact same thing. If you are one of those people who has remained quiet about it, please just understand this: Things will never change unless people like us come together and find out how to make a change occur. We are desperately needed. We can change this.

If you are already on my side and gladly speak out against police brutality, I challenge you to this: Whenever you see a new police brutality video, don’t immediately jump to conclusions and assume the worst. Read; research; find out what happened beyond the 15-second clip you saw. There is always a reason that every action occurs. Take the time and initiative to find out what happened, and then you can form your own opinion. We can’t just cry police brutality every time a police officer manhandles a person. You and I both know that there are crazy people in this country, and police officers experience dangerous situations daily. They have to use their best judgement so they can get home safely to their families. Police officers are trained to defuse situations and should be expected to know when physical force/gun use/etc. are necessary.

To the majority of people who have gotten through this whole post and still wholeheartedly disagree with me, I challenge you to this:

I want you to simply think about what I said carefully for a while. I want you to try to understand why I and so many others feel like this. I’m not making this up. I have no reason to. I have nothing to gain from this post or these opinions. There is a reason I feel this way, and I want you to try to understand why this is the way I feel. We must truly understand both sides of a topic before we can unbiasedly choose. I promise that I have thought long and hard about your side, and I definitely see why y’all think the way you do. You have an extremely high regard for police officers, and think they deserve the upmost respect (which 95% of them absolutely do). You understand that police officers are putting their lives on the line every day for us, and we should show them appreciation. I truly understand your opinion, and I’m not arguing that you are wrong.

But we cannot continue to ignore the minority group of police officers abusing their power just because so many police officers are doing the right thing. If we ignore the “bad cops”, it will only get worse. We cannot stay silent and then complain when there is no change. I will continue to voice my opinion on this topic. I will not stay silent just because I have a minority opinion. Don’t just call me a sensitive liberal just because I don’t agree with you – Tell me why I’m wrong. Challenge me to defend my opinion. Let’s have a good conversation – let’s see if we can find some middle ground.

When individuals come together as a group with a common goal, there is nothing they can’t accomplish. Don’t stay quiet out of fear. Speak your mind. Because I promise you, in the words of the great, late Sam Cooke, a change is gonna come.

Respectfully,

Reavis Hammond