Written April 28, 2021
Perhaps I should have started at the beginning...
Where should I start? I don't like policing. It may sound harsh but it is a drastic evolution from the kid who didn't like police. Here is where most people say, "But there are some good cops." To which I respond, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." Policing is only good to those who believe that Black and Brown people need to be policed. Policing is not only founded in oppression it is literally, violence. Whenever a government institution is able to shift from being a noun to a verb, it is violent. But I digress.
I was 12 in 1992, when America told me exactly what it thought about my Black skin. I remember watching the Rodney King beating over-and over again. Caught red-handed, the cops walked. That year I somehow became a Black man. I was attending Frick International Studies Academy when on the walk home I was stopped by Pittsburgh Police and made to lay face down in the snow while they figured out if I was the guy because I "fit the description." I then learned about state sanctioned violence through the Pittsburgh drug task force who instead of stop and frisk, practiced stop and choke. I was 13 when they made ten of us, ranging from 12 to 20, lay on the hot summer street until someone admitted to tossing a package of crack. No one confessed. These were regular occurrences which made running from the police a popular neighborhood activity. We thought it better to run than to endure the humiliation, assault, or incarceration.
At 13 my friend and I were arrested for squirting a police officer with a super soaker. It was my first time making the local news, which showed a picture of my bike crammed into the trunk of a police car. I quickly learned that what some people call policing, we call harassment. Police whom knew who you were would pull up and ask, "What are you doing in this neighborhood?" or "Where are you going?"
By the time I was 15 I had mastered police encounters, be respectful, say as little as possible and always relax when the knee is on your neck. That was 1995, the year I got "Fuc the Pigz" tattooed on my arm, the year that I had first learned about the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. I was amazed at the audacity of what some people thought was defiance. I saw strong, intelligent Black men standing up for their community. They fed the people and policed the police—they were exactly what we needed. But they were wiped out by J Edgar Hoover and Cointelpro (Like I needed more evidence to confirm my biases).
It was through the reading about the Panthers that I learned my rights, my favorite one was the 5th Amendment made famous by Dave Chappel's skit where he pleads the "Fif." I remember watching the movie Panther, starring Bokeem Woodbine. The police stopped one of the brothers, without cause, and began to ask questions to which the brother answered "Five." Its been a while so I can't remember the lines buy I remember them asking something like "What the hell is Five?" (Or maybe I asked myself that). The proud Panther responds by explaining that it is the Fifth Amendment, refusing to answer on the grounds that he may incriminate himself. I couldn't wait to use my new knowledge. I tried it. It worked. And it earned me the usual bumps and bruises that come with the indecisiveness of whether the police would rather toss you on the ground or against the car.
I respected respectful police, some I even knew by first name. Mostly, I despised crooked cops. The ones who stopped us and kept our money because they said it was "drug money." Those cops, I had no respect for—I still don't. Most police knew that I would run—I took no chances at mercy. I had been blamed for all types of police harassment form throwing a brick through a cop's squad car window to tripping up a cop in mid-chase. That is where this starts. A prime suspect