Black DC-area police officers share perspectives on the job

One group that can give a unique point of view on the current state of policing and race relations is black police officers.

And on Friday, some of them shared their views on the current state of policing and race relations during a panel discussion in D.C.

Don’t Mute DC organized the discussion at the Howard Theatre Friday, where outside, one of many Juneteenth celebrations and marches across the District was being held.

Juneteenth celebrates June 19, 1865, when enslaved black people in Texas learned they were free more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

One of the speakers was former Baltimore police Commissioner Darryl DeSousa, who said that black officers “should be the ones at the forefront.”

“When they see something,” said DeSousa, who is African American, “they should be the first ones to take that flag and throw it up in the air and say: ‘Wait a minute. That’s a foul.’”

D.C. police officer Hakim Tate sees himself as having an obligation to protect residents “against the people that may be the bad seed that’s on the department, black or white.”

Last month’s killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody — along with the killings of Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks by police — have led to protests and a dialogue about policing and race relations.

Speaking about the recent police-involved deaths and the ensuing unrest, Edwin Buckner, a D.C. school resource officer, expressed feeling conflict.

“I’m a black man first, so I’m outraged, I’m mad, I’m p-ssed. But the destruction part — we’re tearing up stuff in our own neighborhood,” Buckner said, referring to incidents of vandalism and looting.

Tate also addressed calls to defund police, a rallying cry of some protesters.

“Well what does that mean?” he said. “We haven’t had a conversation for me to understand what you mean by ‘defund.’”

Proponents say that it isn’t about eliminating police departments or stripping agencies of all of their money. Rather, that it’s more about spending more on housing, education and social services.

In Prince George’s County, for instance, Executive Angela Alsobrooks is asking the county council to divert $20 million in the capital budget away from the new police/public safety training facility and instead spending it on a facility for mental health and addiction.

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