Black Lives Matter Puts Black Police Officers In A Difficult Position: The Struggles Of David Clarke, Montrell Jackson And Others

At the Republican National Convention, Sheriff David Clarke, a black officer of the Law, spoke out openly, expressing the need for law, order, and safety. He also spoke out negatively on what Black Lives Matter has become, but mostly, he spoke about what America has become. America has become fearful.

“We simply cannot be great if we do not feel safe in our homes, on our streets, and in our schools.”

Sheriff David Clarke told the Republican National Convention that Americans no longer feel safe. Clarke supported his claim by citing a recent Gallup poll. Fears about crime are up considerably since 2014. Now, more than half of Americans worry about crime and violence.

Black Lives Matter proposes that African Americans also fear being shot by police in addition to other fears that are common to everyone. Sheriff Clarke cited the Gallup poll showing African Americans are also even more worried about violence and crime than other groups. The poll shows 70 percent of Blacks are greatly concerned about violent crime. Presumably, this would leave African Americans doubly afraid, fearing both crime and law enforcement.

Breitbart has quotes from Sheriff Clarke’s speech.

“Sadly, for a growing number of communities, the sense of safety that many of us once took for granted has been shattered.”

Sheriff David Clarke [Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]
Sheriff David Clarke [Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]

At the Republican National Convention, Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County spoke out against protests, even peaceful ones, citing both Occupy and Black Lives Matter, but the United States Constitution supports the right to peacefully assemble and the right to protest and petition the government. Clarke, though, believes these recent protest movements go beyond what is normally considered a protest.

“So many of the actions of the Occupy movement and Black Lives Matter transcend peaceful protest and violates the code of conduct we rely on. I call it anarchy.”

Black Lives Matter in no way condones the actions of these lone gunmen who murdered police officers. Gunmen found their inspiration to violence apart from the Black Lives movement, according to the Christian Science Monitor. The movement continues to push for more racial equality in law enforcement with peaceful protests, but they do not condone violence.

Sheriff David Clarke brought up the topic of public fears and a lack of public trust at the Republican National Convention. Fear is at the core of the issue, and it is far larger in scope than just a fear of crime. African American Studies Professor Shawn Alexander told the Christian Science Monitor the Black Lives Matter discussion needs to be broadened beyond race and police because so much more is involved in the current tensions. He contends that poverty, joblessness, and inadequacy in veterans services all play a major role in the increased violence, fear, and division in the lives of Americans.

Is Sheriff David Clarke’s view of Black Lives Matter as a destructive movement typical of other black police officers?

At the Republican National Convention, Clarke spoke of law and order, but Montrell Jackson, the officer shot to death in Baton Rouge, spoke of more personal feelings and pleaded with his community to resist hate. He spoke as a man simultaneously on both sides of a deep division. His Facebook post, shown on AJC, reveals real pain and a man torn apart by a senseless conflict which resulted eventually in his death.

“I swear to God I love this city but I wonder if it loves me. In uniform, I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat.”

Montrell Jackson by Baton Rouge Police Dept via AP c
Slain Baton Rouge Police Officer Montrell Jackson [Image via AP photo/Baton Rouge Police Dept

Black Lives Matter has a point, according to Black Police Association of Greater Dallas President Lieutenant Thomas Glover. Glover told PBS in a recent interview he definitely wants criminal justice reform. He reports that he feels pressure from all sides as an African American police officer. Being Black and being a police officer is tough. He feels divided, and he reports that he has spoken out and taken action against racism on the job.

“I will not compromise my convictions, as an African American male for the convenience of being a police officer, just can’t do it. I have reported misconduct. I have reported what I believe was to be excessive force and I have vigorously tried to call out people who openly practice what I would say were discriminatory acts or racist acts of treatment of people of color.”

Far from Sheriff David Clarke’s views about Black Lives Matter expressed at the Republican National Convention, Lieutenant Thomas Glover believes there is racism in law enforcement. Though he knows law and order are necessary, and it is his job to enforce the law, he sees abuse in the system. He also acknowledges there is tremendous pressure to turn a blind eye to certain kinds of abuse.

“I do think that people who are deliberately bringing forth misconduct who so to speak break what you call code of silence, I don’t think they have the opportunity move up in Police Department’s the way others do. When you complain about misconduct in many instances you are labeled as a troublemaker, a militant, you’re radical.”

The Black Lives Matter controversy is a call for community unity, and black officers will need to play an active role in uniting police with the African American community in their daily work and private lives, says Charles Wilson, chairman of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers. Wilson spoke with Christian Science Monitor about being black and being a police officer. He feels the key to ending the violence is better relationships between the community and police, and that African American officers must bridge the gap between divisions.

“Black officers have to be more vocal about these issues, we have to take a stronger stand both with and for the community. We know from both anecdotal and empirical research that the presence of black officers in the community makes a difference. We know this. So it’s about trying to ensure that that presence is well-known, accepted and understood.”

Black police officers are in a very precarious position by playing two roles at once on their jobs and in their daily lives. It can be exhausting, frustrating, and confusing for them. These officers hold a lot of power to resolve the conflicts, but other officers and the community need to listen to them, understand the difficulty of their situation, and help them make the changes that would benefit everyone concerned. The sooner these hostilities are resolved, not just suppressed, the sooner our society can feel safer and more unified.

At the Republican National Convention, Sheriff David Clarke spoke unfavorably about Black Lives Matter, but his remarks do not reflect the feelings of all black police officers.

[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]