Over many years I have noticed how quick and easy it is for us to blame, hate, and/or despise an entire group because of wrongs done by a few in that group. For example, history has proven that many people involved in the group called “the police,” have been fairly good people. However, when a few beat, maim, or kill someone outside this group, the public is often quick to speak ill of that group, throw rocks at them, or even plot to hurt any within that group. Yet, the public is often very slow in thanking those in the group known as “the police, when they go about daily doing the best job they can, serving and protecting.
Yesterday, I had the occasion to watch a police “take down.” I call it a “take down” when an officer with “the police” group has the car siren blaring, telling those he/she is after to stop, put their hands up, lay down, walk toward them, or give some other control command. Sometimes such a “take down” is accompanied by the officer pulling his gun out, and hollering other commands. This “take down” yesterday was quite different.
When I heard the siren, my natural instinct was to follow the sound and see what was going on. Since I was close by when the officer’s vehicle stopped, I followed. In front of the officer’s car were two young African American men. In light of all the uproar of recent killing of young African American men by members of the police, I hasten my pace in order to be a quiet observer in case this “take down” turned deadly.
Thankfully, the two young men stopped and faced the officer. One was on a bike, and the other was on a skateboard. When confronted by the officer, they quickly obeyed his commands without question. Whew! I was so glad they did not become confrontational or make any move that would cause the officer to fear for his life. Coming up from behind me was a plainclothes person that I had met earlier from a nearby store. “Good,” I thought, “now there are two witnesses present in case anything goes wrong!”
As the two young men stood with their hands where the officer could see them, the officer continued his dialog. He soon handcuffed and frisked one of the young men when the plainclothes person explained to the officer what he had observed from his security office cameras over a period of about two hours. Earlier, I had noticed one of the young men riding a bike and wondered why he wasn’t in school since it was early in the day. Later, I notice the young man come riding by again. This time he was accompanied by another young man on a skateboard. This other young man was carrying a backpack. I had a funny feeling when I observed these African American young man but I wanted to keep a positive thought about them. Now I was watching them being arrested for shoplifting as witnessed by the plainclothes person. I felt sadness for the young men as I continued to observe their arrest.
The officer quickly handcuffed the smaller youth on the bike after frisking him, and placed him in the back of the squad car. As the plainclothes man shared what he had observed, the officer asked one of the young men with a bulging backpack if he had anything that he did not pay for. As the young man struggled for an answer, the officer encouraged him to tell the truth in order to avoid more serious consequences. The young man finally admitted that he had taken some things. The officer informed him of his search and asked him to put the backpack down. Thankfully, this taller youth complied, was handcuffed and frisked. Then the officer and the plainclothes person opened the backpack, finding snack food, and something else.
As I continued to watch this “take down,” I was so happy that these youth did not become confrontational. Neither of them said anything, but answered the officer when he asked them questions. When the officer went through the backpack, I noticed what I thought was a 45 caliber gun in one of the pockets of the backpack. The officer had seen it I later found out. When asked by the plainclothes person if he saw the gun, the officer said he did. After the officer went through other parts of the backpack, he then pulled out the gun. He then pulled out his own gun and allowed the plainclothes person and I to look at the two guns side-by-side.
I was so glad that the young man had not pulled this gun on this officer. Then the officer told the plainclothes person and myself that the gun found in the backpack was a BB gun! As I carefully looked at the BB gun, there was nothing to indicate that it was NOT a real gun. There was not a red cap on the end of the BB gun. Then the plainclothes person told the officer he was going to go and find some other merchandise that the young men had stashed in a place for them to get later.
When the plainclothes person returned, he showed what the young men had hidden, including other snacks, and another gun. He also brought the two packages that the guns had been wrapped in. As I looked at those guns, I mentioned that if someone had pulled those guns on me, I would have shot first if I was armed in order to protect my life. The plainclothes person asked the officer why manufacturers were allowed to make toy guns look so realistically. The officer just shook his head.
Another car soon pulled up. It was another officer in a plain car and in plain clothes. When he was told everything was under control, he left. It was then that the officer explained to me that he had called a constable to take the young men in. We had a good conversation. I found out that this officer had been a police person for over 30 years on the streets, but was now doing more administrative work. He was able to respond so quickly because he was about a block away, checking out a false burglary alarm.
When the constable pulled up later, I watched as a very tall, well-dressed, well-developed African American man stepped out of his vehicle. When he looked over at the young men in the squad car, I noticed he was visibly upset. Now that many African Americans had been given opportunity to get educated, move into a great job, and live a better life, here were two young African American men not taking advantage of such opportunities. There was no reason for them to shoplift.
When I considered how things could have gone down, I was very glad to have met another officer who not only followed the book, but he took time to explain things to the young men, did not jerk them down to the ground, and carefully placed them in his squad car. He then turned everything over to the constable who took the young men in. I discovered that this officer had always loved his job, and although he was no longer doing much street work, he was even happy doing the administrative tasks that had been handed to him. To this officer, Steve Degner of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office under Sheriff Tommy Gage, I believe he deserves a great big “Atta boy!”