Why did I show up at the Police Union?


July 21, 2016 by Drew



Nice Title. So why did you?

Because people of color and #BlackLivesMatter asked me to.

That’s it?

No. That’s the biggest reason, though. For me, (and I’m speaking for myself, in this whole blog post) this accountability is very important. It’s not enough to say “I support” a movement. Real change starts when people take direction, take action, and take risks.

Would you jump off a bridge if #BlackLivesMatter asked you to?

No, but I doubt they would.

Don’t they hate white people? You’re white, right?

No and yes. Black Lives Matter is a lot of things, but it isn’t really anti-anything except police brutality and white supremacy. If we could sum up the message in three lines, it would be “stop killing us.”

Us? You’re white, dude.

I know, but I’m part of a larger us that definitely includes people of color. Also, black people are not the only people that get killed. People with mental illness (like me and a lot of people I love) are also at increased risk.

So why are you bringing race into it?

Because black people are disproportionally killed, and often blamed for their own deaths. As a white person, I can reasonably expect the police to be there for me. Black people have lost faith (if they ever had it) in the systems that are supposed to keep them safe.

Ok, but why the union? Aren’t you pro-union?

In general, yes, but this particular union is troubling. Here’s what they posted on their blog.

We are now forced to arm ourselves. Political correctness is putting Police in harms way. This unity nonsense is bullshit. We will not unify with the criminal element of society. Comply with our orders and you won’t get yourself killed. Enough!!!

What’s wrong with that?

A few things:

  • It seems that officers are arming themselves in ways that the chief and the mayor have not approved.
  • Calling “unity,” “bullshit.”
  • Referring to the  people who came to mourn and connect on Lafayette Square as “the criminal element of society.”
  • This sounds like “comply or die” the implied threat that disobedience leads to an immediate death sentence (without a trial).

Wait, didn’t they co-sponsor that event? Why would they call it “bullshit?”

I have no idea.

Well, shouldn’t people comply with orders?

Of course. But sometimes because of illness or disability, people can’t. Other times, people are given conflicting orders (Keep your hands where I can see them/take out your license and registration). And sometimes, conscience requires disobedience.

The police may execute an arrest in those circumstances, but they are only authorized to use lethal force when their life is immediately threatened.

But isn’t it the union’s job to stick up for officers?

Of course. It’s my belief that this kind of antagonism against the community, from a representative of the police, is bad for the police as a whole. It makes their job harder. Hopefully, now that the union’s leadership has reached a larger audience, the rank and file of the union will speak up for safe and healthy practices and their leadership will listen (or change.)

And if they don’t?

People will eventually choose sides. I don’t believe that the officers in Buffalo think that more weapons and less unity is the best way forward.

Don’t you have sympathy for the police?

Of course I do. Everybody who participated in this action committed not only to non-violence in our actions, but we refused to dehumanize the police or their representatives in any other way. And the first thing that we told the representative from the PBA is that we condemn the killings of officers.

You had your collar on. Should you really participate in this as a minister?

I think it is very important for people of faith, and particularly followers of Jesus, to stand with and for victims of violence. Even though I wasn’t sent on behalf of my church, my participation was a matter of personal religious conviction.

What about (insert other issues like crime, homeless vets, etc)?

We can walk and chew gum at the same time. If you are committed to those issues, I encourage you to invest yourself in them.

So what did you ask the union?

We asked them to take down the blog post and denounce violence against citizens.

Did they?

No. They stand by their post.

Did they say anything else?

They said, “Be careful out there.”

That sounds like a threat! Is that how it was intended?

I hope not. You can listen for yourself.

Can I get involved in this work?

Absolutely. Click here to join Buffalo’s chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice.

Do you need to give any credits?

So much love to the whole SURJ Buffalo team. Also, while VerySmartBrothas.com may not have invented the Q & A blog post format, they certainly have mastered it.



2 thoughts on “Why did I show up at the Police Union?

  1. Great post, Drew. Very thoughtful and provokes action. Thank you.

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