(NNPA)—Fifteen years ago, in response to a series of homicides by Black teenagers in Richmond, Va., I made the following suggestion in a column written for the Richmond Free Press:
“I have a suggestion on how to more effectively combat street crime in Black neighborhoods in Richmond. Put all-Black police officers in our neighborhoods. The use of Black cops would eliminate race as a factor in crime control in our neighborhoods by taking this cover out of the hands of that minority of neighborhood residents who indulge in criminal behavior, mainly against their own people.”
Many Black people, for legitimate historical reasons, just don’t trust White police officers. Black criminals are acutely aware of this situation and take advantage of it.
My suggestion, which I still believe is valid, was based on the premise that many, if not most, Black cops either live in an inner city Black neighborhood or have relatives or friends who live in one. Thus, they have a much more vested interest in safety in such neighborhoods than their White counterparts. By the way, I also believe that if all cops had to live in the cities where they draw paychecks, it would have a impact on lowering street crime rates.
Also, there’s the harsh reality that the overwhelming majority of homicides in urban Black neighborhoods involves low-income Black males killing other low-income Black males. And, in most cases, the perpetrator and the victim know each other. Which raises the issue of how to stop people who know each other from killing each other, often for absurd reasons.
Then there is the reality that in most cases, the perpetrators are not, as too often portrayed, strangers invading a neighborhood and killing people. More often than not, the perpetrators are relatives or friends of those who live in that neighborhood.
Hopefully, Black cops, supported by other concerned Black people, can assist in limiting the number of young people who often know each other, from killing each other. What the young thugs and wannabe thugs fail to comprehend is that their destructive behavior towards each other and towards their communities is allowed, sometimes even encouraged, by a system for which they don’t really matter that much.
Black males killing other low-income Black males or occasionally other low-income persons in their neighborhoods, “Too bad, that’s life” is the general response.
Hopefully, Black cops, supported by other concerned Black people, can assist in limiting the number of young people who often know each other, from killing each other. What the young thugs and wanna be thugs fail to comprehend is that their destructive behavior towards each other and towards their communities is allowed, sometimes even encouraged, by a system for which they don’t really matter that much.
(A. Peter Bailey, a former associate editor of Ebony, is currently editor of Vital Issues: The Journal of African American Speeches. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)