Letter to the editor

Click on the cover to be linked to the Nov. 19 issue.
Click on the cover to be linked to the Nov. 19 issue.

In response to the opinion in the article “Shoot me, I’m black”

Submitted by Charity Hansel, school resource officer at Kennedy.

On Thanksgiving Day in the early dark hours, I was picking up traffic cones that had blown over. I then heard someone yelling. I determined it was a man standing a distance away yelling “Michael Brown” at me. He kept up yelling his name, calling out Ferguson, telling me all we do is shoot black men in the streets. He had a small child standing beside him. He continued to yell at me, not even knowing me at all. And in front of an innocent child who is being taught all police are bad.

When I read and reread this article in the Torch, I have to admit I was shocked, angry and really offended. I have spent nearly 23 years of my life being a police officer because I truly wanted to and still want to help people. And when I say people, I mean ALL people. But unfortunately, my skin is white. So I continue to be prejudged and treated in a way that I did nothing to deserve simply because my clothes are blue and my skin is white.

Shocked. I was shocked in a community such as ours where citizens and the police have had good rapport that anyone would feel black lives don’t matter. Every child is a gift from God, as I was taught and I believe. For years I have stood between evil and innocent, with my heart being color blind. If people really believe the police are racist, why isn’t there a dialogue taking place? I find it is much harder to make assumptions when you really get to know someone. I know sometimes it is hard to understand what the police are thinking and why we do what we do, but it can all be explained and understood if we talk. And listen. Really listen to each other’s fears and dreams.

Angry. I know my heart and because I wear blue, you assume you know my heart too. But you don’t. Clearly you have no idea who I am or what I stand for. My heart aches every time there is a loss of life. But unlike many people, I waited on Ferguson. I saw that for the first many days that all the media did was report negative things against the officer. Not being there or knowing all the circumstances, I waited and reserved opinion. And then I prayed. I prayed for the family that lost a loved one. I prayed for the community on edge. I prayed for the officer who shot Mr. Brown. And I prayed for a nation that would wait with an open mind. But the nation wasn’t waiting. It was deciding without any facts, except for the fact that Mr. Brown was black and Officer Wilson was white.

Offended. I was offended by this article. It was written, “It felt like our spirits were bleeding drops of gasoline on the flaming coals inside.” For me, it felt like my spirit was ripped from my body and trampled on by people who don’t even know me. Systematic racism, you say. The article isn’t about systematic racism and I would argue this isn’t even the issue on the bigger scale. It is about labeling. I have just been labeled, much like you say is happening to you. But here is the truth: not every cop is bad, not every black is a criminal and not every white is a racist. Stop labeling!

I saw an interview by Charles Barkley the other day. He said when you resist arrest or are violent with the police then bad things will happen. It has never been lawful to resist arrest. Period. If an officer is going to arrest you then you must submit. If you believe the arrest is unlawful, then you will have your day in court. Then you can sue the officer and police department for false arrest. But you cannot resist arrest. And when did hitting a cop ever become acceptable? Do you remember Officer Tim Davis from the Cedar Rapids Police Department that almost died a couple of years back? He was struck once, ONCE in the face by a juvenile and died three times on the operating table as doctors worked on his brain injuries. The juvenile was black and officer was white. But that was not an issue with our department, our community or Good Morning America. Why? Because race had nothing to do with it. It was about bad decisions to do a violent act.

The article states Mr. Brown was shot several times, he didn’t deserve it, and he was a good kid just walking home with his hands up. The media said the Officer Wilson murdered an unarmed black child who went to church and listened to his music. How did America know that already? The fact is, there were very few people who knew that because none of us were given any real details initially. Yet so many people of every race were sucked in by rumors and the media. All that did was stoke a fire before any of us really knew what had happened. And of course, it was a race issue…not an issue of facts and whether the force was reasonable or unreasonable.

Mr. Barkley said if it weren’t for the police, the ghetto would be the wild, Wild West. The community that we as police would lay our very own life down to protect hates us because our skin is white and our clothes blue. And for some of our brothers and sisters in blue, their skin is black. But then they are shunned and called names like traitor, Uncle Tom and cracker…like Mr. Barkley was after his interviews with CNN.

The question was asked, “Why is our suffering so invisible, so unvalued that it takes a city in flames to see it?” That is exactly how many law enforcement officers all across America felt when we saw the town of Ferguson burning. Why are we called racist when that isn’t in our hearts? Why do we agree to die for citizens that hate us? Why are we so invisible and so unvalued by our communities? Why do you call us names? I am not a murderer or a G.I. Joe wannabe. I pray every day that I don’t have to shoot anyone. But I will to protect you without hesitation…even though you label me. And I too have a dream. I dream of peace.

Respectfully submitted,
Officer Charity