When Writing and Protest is Not Enough

By: Judson L. Jeffries, PhD


What can I say about the recent shooting of a teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, that hasn’t already been said? Over the course of my academic career I have published numerous journal articles as well as a book on the subject of police-community relations, namely police use of extra-legal force against people of color. When Demetrius DuBose, formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was killed in 1999 by police officers in San Diego I wrote about it; when Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo were sodomized and killed, respectively, by members of the NYPD I wrote about it. When young men were shot down in the streets of South Central LA in the 1990s while I was a graduate student at USC, I protested.

Years ago my colleague at Medgar Evers College, Dr. Carlyle V. Thompson, was so put-off by the sadistic manhandling of Abner Louima that he was prompted to write an article titled, “White Police Penetrating, Probing, and Playing in the Black Man’s Ass.”

As someone who was reared in a military/law enforcement family, I have a deep appreciation for the work that police officers do on a daily basis. In some respects it can be a thankless job. One could, however, easily make the argument that no state agent does, on average, more good on a day-to-day basis than America’s police officers. For example, if I had a dollar for every time I saw a police officer helping some lady change a flat tire on a busy highway, I’d have a big fat piggy bank. And while we often only hear about police work when the issue revolves around excessive force, the fact of the matter is that very few officers across the country engage in that type of cowardice. As someone who has an intimate knowledge of the profession, I am aware that most officers enter the field because they want to make a difference. Many are just hard working blokes trying to etch out a living and provide for their families.

While this may be hard to believe, incidents involving excessive force are typically committed by the same _ _ _holes. For example, in a department of 100 officers there may be one or two who exhibit a proclivity for this type of criminality. Most often the officers are white, but not always. On occasion, when in the company of a white officer, an overzealous African American officer might engage in extra-legal force against a black male in an effort to win his colleague’s approval. In the event these bad apples are allowed to enjoy a career of twenty years or more, what they will undoubtedly leave behind is a file as thick as a small-town telephone book comprised of complaints lodged by various motorists and pedestrians.

It has been years, I mean years, since I’ve participated in a protest against police use of excessive force and two years since I have produced a scholarly piece on the subject of excessive force against Black males. Why, because I’ve no more protest in me where this matter is concerned. I’ve run out of words to describe my contempt for those miscreants who dishonor police departments everywhere with their rogue ways.

Other than poverty and ignorance, I can think of no greater threat to American democracy than to allow these evil-doers to injure, maim, and kill residents with impunity. Neither words nor protest will sufficiently rid society of these perverts nor will five men in ski masks unskilled in the art of warfare. Nope, it’s gonna take way more than that.

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