Viewpoint by Brandon A. Edwards
In recent history, there have been many horrifying stories of police interactions with African-Americans. Most of those stories don’t end well.
It wasn’t until March 31 that I gained a sense of hope for law enforcement. Growing up a black man in America can be frightening, which is why we seldom seek the help of police.
On March 31, my partner Mandy — I call her “Mellifluous” — and I needed assistance.
We were entered in a two-person photo essay competition at the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association 2016, walking through the heart of downtown Dallas in search of anything of substance for our photo assignment, “The sounds of the city.”
After 45 minutes of walking, we arrived at Klyde Warren Park, a photographer’s goldmine. There was a live jazz band, kids playing in the water, laughter and conversation, people chasing their pets and the aromas of Thai, Korean and American-style food trucks. It was perfect. However, 10 teams were already canvassing the park.
Mellifluous and I looked at each other and decided to continue our search. We came across a police officer; we will call him “Mr. Officer.” Mellifluous approached him to inquire about other events going on in the area.
“It’s a slow evening, I’ll take you to a place,” he said. My initial reaction was to turn and go the other direction, and had I been alone I would not have accepted his offer of a ride to a “place.” However, I was with Mellifluous, so what was the worst that could happen? We hopped in the patrol car, he reported the trip to dispatch and began driving around.
It was the first time I had ever been in a police car and for a positive reason; I am not a trouble maker. Mr. Officer gave us a nice tour of the downtown area, showing us Reunion Tower, the Sixth Floor museum of the JFK assassination, the Big Green Giant, West End Station and “the $80 million bridge to nowhere,” all while telling his life story.
As the ride continued, I became less nervous.
He actually went to this college for a semester before joining the military. He retired from the service to go into law enforcement. So many interesting things came out of this simple interaction.
At the end of our 20-minute tour through downtown, he pulled up to the corner of Elm and Houston Street. He said, “Thanks for listening to my story, and sorry if the tour didn’t really help you out much. I know you all were looking for people and I showed you landmarks and other buildings. You’re a good guy and good luck to you.”
We were on our way. Needless to say, when we exited the vehicle we had 45 minutes to finish our assignment and had no idea what we were going to cover.
Mellifluous pointed out a woman walking out of a nearby store. She looked confused at the sight of me in the front seat of the squad car and Mellifluous in the back. She just smiled at the woman as we passed by.
We didn’t win that competition, but what I did gain from this experience is that not every police officer is looking to incriminate African-Americans.
Most officers just want to offer help. He told me “people think all officers enjoy chasing down bad guys, when we really just want to enjoy a nice cup of joe. When people act out, it makes us work.”
Every other experience with police I’ve had was because I “looked suspicious.”
I don’t judge anyone; who am I to judge? I am not saying that I will happily walk up to a police officer and ask for help every time, but Mr. Officer gave me a sense of hope about America’s law enforcement. The world could use more law enforcement like Mr. Officer.