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perspectives on policing

In these interviews about imagining a U.S. without racism, many folks talk about the police. The perspectives run the gamut, from defund and reform the police, to invest in and grow the police, and more. Here are glimpses of two conversations about policing. Interviewee #23 is a first generation Asian immigrant, cis female, 46 years old. She grew up in a rural, farming area in Asia, now she lives in a rural, farming area in the American Midwest. Interviewee #48 is a retired police officer, White, cis male, 66 years old, living in the suburban East Coast.

Interviewee #23:

The police in [her home country] is very different from here. The police here are given too much authority. For me, my understanding of police was as your neighbor. If you need help you can go to the police station and ask, "Oh my cat got lost, can you help find..." We saw them as our safeguard and our neighbors. They are not armed. You can go to the police station and say, "I'm so hungry I don't have any money. Is it possible I can borrow money and get food to eat." The police will buy some food and give to you without checking your status. They will do what they can to make sure you're ok. See, that's so different.

Interviewee #48

I went on the police department in 1979...When I first went in uniform, and I was working a car, a lot of the police were my father's age in their 50s. The difference was when they first came on, they walked foot in the neighborhood... In the 1970s, started in Los Angeles, they came out with a new police model with cars and response times. A lot of the other cities were trying to follow it. We went through this period. We got a commissioner from San Jose, California, and they were teaching us this arrest technique where they wanted us to put people on their knees. I said to somebody, "I'm not making somebody kneel down in the street." To me that' if it was something dangerous I would do it. But they were teaching this as like general practice but I'm not making somebody kneel in the street. I just think - to me it's - that's humiliating. If I got stopped for something and they said I want you to kneel down. I would look at them and say, "You crazy? Do what you have to do. Here's my hands, put my hands behind... " But I just don't like that technique.

My post was four blocks long and six blocks wide a pretty small area. Black neighborhood. The difference in [the city he worked in] was you knew the people on your post. They knew what shift you were on. You have to be fair to people. Funny story about a drug dealer. 1982 or 83. One Sunday morning, I get a call about a guy dealing drugs with a bag of drugs next to him. I arrest him. He goes to jail. The moment I locked him up, I knew I was going to lose the case. The reason being I never saw him touch the bag. The public defender asked me at court, "Did you see him touch the drugs?" I said No. I knew right then and there the case was going to be lost. We walked out of the courthouse and the guy asked me, "Why didn't you lie?" I said, "You were in jail for 30 days waiting to go to preliminary hearing...I'm not going to lie and get myself in trouble." I saw him probably 5 years later he said to me, That was the best thing that ever happened to me." He didn't get a record, he went to jail for 30 days, but he wasn't found guilty. And he even said to me, "You could have lied, but you didn't." That's the kind of stuff when I say "fair".

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