The Black and Blue: African American law enforcement discuss work following George Floyd’s death
There has been an outcry across the nation following the death of George Floyd. Black officers are now finding themselves navigating between their personal and professional experiences - living in black skin and wearing the blue uniform.
“How can you sit there and casually take someone’s life,” said Deputy Chief David Agee, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
For 8 minutes and 46 seconds the world watched George Floyd’s life slip away under the knee of a police officer. And at the end of the video clip came passionate calls for action against police brutality and racism, that resonate with black officers.
“I think we need to value the lives of black people,” said Deputy Chief Agee, ”I’m a student of Dr. Martin Luther King, so I believe in protests. So to see the young people standing up and being passionate about something I love to see that.”
Deputy Chief David Agee says he’s loved his job in law enforcement for 34 years, but balances that with his life beyond the badge.
“When I take off this uniform, I’m still a black man. So, I understand the anxiety that the black community feels,” said Deputy Chief Agee.
The dichotomy of the black and blue isn’t a unique experience.
“Me as a black man - I could be in that situation. People will say, ‘You’re an officer'. Not when I’m driving down the road by myself,” said Lt. Cortice Miles, Bessemer Police Department.
Lt. Cortice Miles has worked for Bessemer PD for close to 22 years and says officers navigating the national unrest is challenging -- but doesn’t compromise the job.
“There are times where I tell the guys - you have to flip that switch. You have to flip that switch and turn off those emotions and do the job you’re required to do,” said Lt. Miles.
Officers say they do see a need for more for law enforcement training in racial bias, de-escalation, and accountability, more diversity in departments, and more meaningful relationships built between law enforcement and the community.
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