Have you ever been pulled over by a police officer? I have. With the increasing amounts of violence perpetrated by the state, did you feel that the interaction could have led to your untimely death? I have been there, too.
It’s safe to say that police officers and black people don’t have the same goal and have never particularly had an amicable relationship. And why should we? For black people throughout the country, the fear of police officers is far too real, which is why, within the past two weeks, organizers have protested them and encouraged the disinvestment of the Fraternal Order of Police.
But, thankfully, your neighborhood police have a solution to addressing that hostile relationship: pulling people over and, instead of giving bullets or a choke hold or a hashtag, giving them ice cream on a hot summer day.
In the summertime, with temperatures reaching almost 100 degrees, Halifax, Va., Police Chief Kevin Lands and Police Officer Brian Warner have been pulling over unsuspecting drivers and giving them ice cream because they “wanted to try and put some smiles on people’s faces.” Job well done—that is unless your community experiences violence from the “boys in blue” every single day.
Out of the estimated 20 people that Police Chief Lands and Officer Warner pulled over for ice cream Friday, one encounter has gone viral—placing a smile on the faces of “good cops” who have magically discovered how to keep a video recording on, everywhere.
The video—which now has over 4 million views on Facebook—is one of a black woman being pulled over by Officer Warner. Once discovering that she has not, in fact, committed an actual traffic violation, but instead a violation of “vehicle code 1793” for “driving on a hot day without an ice cream cone,” she lets out this hysterical laughter. The laughter continues for almost all of the video. She can’t stop. It is an overwhelming sigh of relief that many of us understand, particularly in the past several years, and it is honestly difficult to watch.
Check it out for yourself:
"Her reaction was absolutely the best," Warner said later. "It was genuine, and she had us smiling and laughing for a good hour afterwards, and I've probably watched the video myself 50 times just laughing … and that's one of the great things with police work, you get to meet people like that on a daily basis, and it makes the job worth it."
To the untrained eye and ear, the black woman captured in the video sounded full of joy. But to black people everywhere, we know what loud, uncontrollable relief looks and sounds like. That relief that Maya Angelou once talked about that black women have perfected. That relief that forces you to laugh because you haven’t had the space to cry just yet. That relief every time we interact with police officers because we never know if we will leave that interaction alive.
In an attempt to better relations with community and police officers, the video does the exact opposite. It further highlights the fear that black people carry with them the moment they see flashing lights in their rearview mirror. Not only is this supposed lighthearted humor a complete waste of resources and tax dollars, but it’s also dangerous to stop a driver for no apparent reason other than to show how “good” a cop one is. It’s tone-deaf and out of touch with our reality and experiences as black people.
Perhaps police officers often forget the names of Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Mike Brown and, most recently, Philando Castile—who was killed after being in the same car with his girlfriend (ironically the same configuration as the one shown in the video)—but black people never will. We know what getting pulled over by the police can mean for us. We know what accidentally saying “Ma’am” to an egomaniacal, hypermasculine guy cop can mean for us. We know what can happen in a matter of seconds. And we recognize that all of this can occur anytime we step into a vehicle.
What the police officers in Halifax—and any department that is considering stopping people for ice cream instead of figuring out alternatives to killing people—need to consider is the role they play in various communities. The problem is that often, many police officers believe that people trust them.
And so long as they keep pulling stunts like this in order to prove themselves “good,” we will continue to recognize how bad they truly are.