From slave patrols to choke holds, there’s a place in history where race intersects with policing.
Retired Montgomery County Police Captain Sonia Pruitt believes her goal is to partner with other law enforcement professionals to teach that history through an organization she founded called, ‘The Black Police Experience.’
Not only does Pruitt want to teach that history, but she’s also a history maker.
She’s the first Black woman police officer in Montgomery County to achieve the rank of captain. The native North Carolinian is the daughter of a police officer who came to Washington, D.C. to attend Howard University, her alma mater.
Pruitt said her rise to captain was a difficult one.
“There was a lot of hypocrisy and double standards. It was very difficult for me to climb the ladder after I passed sergeant,” she said.
But Pruitt persevered and when she was finally promoted to captain in 2019, she said, “surprise, surprise, I was sent to midnights.” Pruitt said this is not an uncommon place for Black women law enforcement officers.
After 16 months, she decided it was time to move on to other pursuits. Although the two time breast cancer survivor retired from policing in 2020, she encourages young people to consider law enforcement as a career.
“Things are going to change despite what police officers who are reluctant to change feel,” and when that change happens she said, “We need young Black men, women, Asians, Latinos. We need people to enter the force and help become what the people really want.”
Pruitt also believes that police leadership is not doing all they can to help usher in change. She said they have a tendency to patronize the community.
“The community already knows that there are good officers. The community already knows that police have to make split second decisions. What the community wants to know is why Black people are dying at the hands and knees of police when we’re not seeing anyone else dying that way,” she said.
Pruitt said we need to look into police hiring practices, who’s doing the hiring and who’s in charge of obtaining background information.
She is the past chairperson of the National Black Police Association. The mother of twin boys currently lives in Prince George’s County, Maryland.