Black and Blue: Officer Sees Both Sides in the Michael Brown Shooting

She Matters: A policewoman shares her story about what it means to be “half black, half cop.”

Police officers equipped in riot gear line up during a protest of the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown outside Ferguson Police Department headquarters Aug. 11, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo.
Police officers equipped in riot gear line up during a protest of the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown outside Ferguson Police Department headquarters Aug. 11, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

Last week, seemingly like everyone else, I was discussing the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. In a private email chain, I shared some of my un-PC thoughts about Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson’s press conference, in which Jackson alleged that Brown had robbed a convenience store prior to his life-ending encounter with Officer Darren Wilson:

Unless Brown was high—and not on weed, like a hard drug—this did not happen.

Police have said that when Wilson tried to get out of his vehicle, Brown pushed him back into the car, then entered it and began fighting for the officer’s gun.

No sober black kid does that, at least not over a cop rolling up and opening the door. Dorian Johnson’s version that the cop tried to choke Brown through the window is way more plausible. Maybe Brown reached for a gun then. Maybe not. The real story is probably a mix of Johnson’s and the cop’s version.

One of the women in the email chain is a black female police officer in one of the highest-ranked cities for crime. I convinced her to allow me to share her unique perspective and candid thoughts on Brown’s death in exchange for her anonymity.

A black female officer speaks:

“My experience being a black cop is what I imagine it feels like to be a biracial kid. But instead of being half this or half that, I’m half black, half cop. And neither side accepts me. 

“As a black woman, I know what it feels like to be followed around in anything from a low-end convenience store to a Saks Fifth Avenue, simply because of the color of my skin. I also know what it feels like to be pulled over unjustly—and I absolutely know it’s not right because I happen to know the motor vehicle laws. I know what it feels like to have a man, who is driving and I’m a passenger, be pulled over unjustly while we’re driving through a white town. So please don’t take this as me not understanding the plight of us as African Americans in this country, because I do.

“However, as an officer, I also know what it feels like to be harassed, assaulted, spit at, cursed at and have unjust complaints filed on me because the man or woman I went after was a fugitive and he or she eluded arrest. Because the group of dudes on the corner were clearly hustling and I moved in to make my arrest. Because I pulled out my weapon on the young man who did not heed my requests to slowly take his hands out of his pockets, to stop running, to stay where he is, to let me see his hands, to put his hands in the air, to put his hands on the steering wheel, etc. Because I was doing my job.

“I happen to work in a city that consistently ranks high in crime. When patrolling, I pull my weapon out every day. Every single day. Have I ever had to fire it at someone? No. And I pray every day that I make it to my 25 years never having to do so.

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