Earl Morgan, a columnist for the Jersey Journal called police to task in a recent piece—saying that they need to stop assuming “everyone in the inner city is a perp.” This assumption, he says (and many would agree), is rampant not only in Jersey City– where allegations of brutality against a teen have been in recent news– but throughout the state.
Morgan points to a recent NAACP meeting in the Martin Luther King Drive office of that organization as an example. The meeting was held to discuss the brutality case. But it was police response following the meeting that would only cause a deeper rift between police and the local community.
As meeting-goers were gathered outside the building socializing after the meeting, local police on foot patrol showed up. The crowed, Morgan says, contained “black people of all ages and professions, from teenagers to middle-agers and senior citizens, including a fair number of black professionals and business people.”
Using a “gruff” and curt tone, the officers ordered the “crowd” to disperse. Several members of the group took offense to their tone and said so.
“This is exactly what we’re talking about. They hassle us, but they don’t say anything to the drug dealers across the street,” said the younger attendees after they re-entered the building to comply with the police.
Often, in the mind of patrol officers, if you are in the inner city, you are automatically a target—just look at the NYPD and their use of “stop and frisk” in minority communities. Where you are, paired with how you look can make you a target, even if the police won’t admit it.
While there may be certain areas of a city that have more than their share of crime, those areas also contain law-abiding citizens, some of who have lived in those neighborhoods their whole lives, long before high crime rates moved in. Yet, even these people are often not afforded the respect of law enforcement.
For his part, Morgan suggests police trainees take the time to come out and meet community organizers and members before they are on patrol, that they should learn from the people who experience it, what it’s like to be automatically considered suspect.
When the police assume you are up to no good, it only deepens the divide between them and the people they are supposed to be protecting. And this growing mutual disrespect can only make the already-troubled neighborhoods even more difficult to live in.
Whether you were targeted because of where you live or who you hang around with, you have rights. Even if you are accused of a crime you admit to doing, all hope is not lost. Contact us today whether it’s for a drug case or a robbery charge.