This year for Valentine’s Day I requested time off from work. It wasn’t because I had something romantic planned, nor did I have a reservation at the spa. Instead, I decided to participate in a ride-along with a Houston police officer. I had been wanting to do this for quite some time, but the program was paused during the pandemic and I had not gotten the opportunity to do it since the program was reinstated. In the past, I have had the opportunity to partner with law enforcement in many ways, including cooperative work on school grounds, partnerships with the TAPS program, and sponsoring community events with NOBLE. However, this was my opportunity to see firsthand what our Houston officers do on patrol.
My day with Officer Davis began with a 6am roll call. Men and women in uniform had a brief meeting with the sergeant and received their assignments for the day. The sergeant introduced me to the team, shook my hand, and provided me with a temporary identification badge that made me feel official. Officer Davis walked me through his morning routine, including getting an assigned body camera and a vehicle. As we sat in the police vehicle waiting to leave, another female officer tapped on the window. She assured me and Officer Davis that she was looking out for us during the shift.
Our first call of the day was somewhat of a domestic dispute, which I was expecting given the holiday. Officer Davis arrived on the scene and took the time to listen to what the concerned citizens had to say. He had to exercise discernment, ask questions, and ultimately mediate a situation between relatives and lovers, which he was able to remedy.
We took a few calls and ran a few traffic stops during the day and Officer Davis took the time to explain all of their systems and processes. It was a great learning experience! Coincidentally, Officer Davis's district is the same community that I served as a school leader, so I knew the area very well. One call that we took in the first part of the day impacted me because it involved a student in a domestic situation who attended the school that I used to serve. Being back on those grounds working with a student and their family brought back so many fond memories, but also reminded me of the challenges that we face as educators that have little to do with the actual education of students. This student had mental health concerns and he and his family’s situation really tugged at my heart strings. I was grateful that Officer Davis allowed me to engage with the young man and his family because I could relate mother-to-mother, mother-to-son, and educator-to-student. We ended up taking him to a mental health facility so that he could receive treatment and it was bittersweet leaving him there. On one hand, I knew he was getting needed help. On the other hand, I wanted to do so much more. That young man stayed on my mind the rest of the day.
As we neared the last few hours of Officer Davis’s 10-hour shift and most of the calls were cleared, we thought things were winding down, especially with the overlap of the evening shift officers coming on board. As we were working traffic, we saw a call that we could go check out—one where the Mobile Crisis Outreach Team (MCOT) was already present. Officer Davis pulled over a young man for a traffic violation and, during the stop, the MCOT call was escalated. He concluded the stop and we arrived on scene. A man was having a mental health episode with a possibility of drug interaction. He had barricaded himself in the house and was self-harming and expressing suicidal ideations. When the man finally allowed officers in the home, it quickly became apparent that backup was needed to ensure the safe apprehension of the man for medical care without he or officers being harmed. Within a few moments, officers showed up one after another, many I recognized from morning roll call and others I knew were evening shift. The officers were finally able to get the man subdued and Houston Fire Department transported him for mental health care. This call showed me the powerful collaboration of mental health providers with law enforcement and HFD, and the support that officers had for one another to ensure that they were safe and that the victim was handled with as little force as possible.
As we returned to the station to end the day, we greeted the other officers from day shift who were returning as well, several from the scene that we were on. The smiles and comradery were infectious—teamwork got all the calls cleared for the shift and everyone was safe. It was a good day and a job well done.
I learned that no day for an officer is a routine day and that there is no way to know what a day will bring. I appreciate the patience that the officers have for trivial calls, the respect that they have for community members in crisis, and the discernment they have when folks try to weaponize the police against their neighbors.
I want to first and foremost thank Officer Davis for the experience and the willingness to have me along and answer my questions. Thank you to each and every officer at the station that welcomed me warmly and made me feel like I was a part of the team. Thank you to dispatch for looking out for us and checking in. Thank you to the two MCOT staff members for embracing my presence on scene. It was an amazing experience and I cannot wait to do it again.
As a Black woman in America, I can admit that I am exhausted. I am not the kind of exhausted that can be relieved by a hot bath and a good night’s sleep. I am emotionally exhausted. I have witnessed the deaths of countless men and women whose lives were cut short for no reason other than the color of their skin or their sexual orientation. I have seen legislation meant to give rights to marginalized people challenged and repealed. I have experienced racism, discrimination, marginalization, and microaggressions. I have been dismissed, reduced to tropes, and chastised.
For this reason, I do not feel the need to relive Black trauma for entertainment’s sake. I do not condemn or judge Black people who enjoy period pieces or stories that recount Black history, but I personally have seen and read enough to last my lifetime. On the heels of watching the beating of Tyre Nichols by police officers that led to his ultimately death, I made the mistake of watching a movie at home that addressed the perils of an interracial couple trying to unite their families from vastly different backgrounds. I have tried watching other shows—I chose one that was a remake of a movie that I used to love which took place in the 50s and the Black main character was subjected to discrimination due to their race and gender; the other was a time traveling story where the main character found herself in the past on a plantation. It was like I couldn’t escape it, so I turned the tv off. I recognized that, as an individual, I did not have the bandwidth to process that movie or those shows without reliving trauma.
For this reason, I caution employers that lean on their Black employees for information, guidance, and advice related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. It cannot be assumed that a Black employee is willing or even able to address the societal issues that are impacting them. Ask first and do not assume that consent to discuss one topic is blanket consent to be the go-to for all things pertaining to Black folk. What that Black employee may not convey to non-Black coworkers is that it is near impossible to discuss these topics devoid of emotional labor.
If you are like me in any way and desire to steer away from reliving Black trauma repeatedly in media and entertainment, consider reading books or watching movies that focus on Black joy and Black folks living lives that are not centered on racial trauma.
20 Books That Celebrate Black Joy
10 Books That Center Black Joy
These Black Movies and Shows Highlight Our Joy
What better day than the first day of Black History month 2023 to launch my new DEIS (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Social Justice) blog! It is my goal through this Equity & Social Justice Forum to shed light on issues related to DEIS in the United States, especially as it impacts leadership and education, to amplify Black voices, and propose solutions.
Should you choose to venture on this journey with me, know that I do not intend on doing all the work! I challenge you to read, research, think critically, reflect, and act! Please stay tuned for all that is to come through this forum.
In the meantime, kick off Black History Month by checking out the Library of Congress website for events and information related to Black History Month 2023.