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A Police Brutality Matters movement

Mattew Hirst | 6/9/2019, 12:08 a.m.
“Police Brutality Matters,” according to former police officer Joseph Ested, who has chosen to make it the moniker for his ...
Former police officer Joseph Ested, founder of Police Brutality Matters. Politice Brutality Matters

“I guess that was one of my reactions … trying to understand the job of policing at a young age when growing up in low-income areas. So, when I had the opportunity, as I got older, to enter law enforcement, I started to understand more what the problem was … just the mere image of how low-income areas are looked at, particularly the Black community. As far as you can go back, the Black community has never had a positive appearance to the rest of society when you’re talking about poverty,” said Ested, adding his thoughts as to how such poor police-community relations are created in the first place. “When I started talking with friends as I became a cop, I started understanding what the problem was … and coming from that area, then now becoming a police officer and listening to other officers on how to interpret that particular area, the narrative was just so off. It was just so wrong.”

Ested spoke about how the disconnect between police departments and what are regarded as high-risk communities is largely due to poor outreach and patrolling efforts, coupled by poor knowledge of the community at hand and racial bias within departments. By not working to understand and be present in the community, in addition to expecting the worst when responding to calls in such areas, law enforcement departments facilitate an ongoing negative relationship.

“Coming from that area, when I start talking about police brutality to that community [the projects], they don’t even believe that there’s good cops out because all they experience is aggressive, bad policing. And yet, that’s 4% of police officers. You have almost a million officers in the United States, and when you start talking about bad policing, it represents a very small number of police officers. But that community, if all they saw was negative policing, that’s all they believed that’s how the whole department is.”

Ested explained that something he came across often throughout his career was a certain ignorance from many officers who had rarely interacted with the Black community, let alone with low-income Black communities. Such a point speaks to the importance of recruitment efforts that can be found in Dallas and its surrounding suburbs that are working to bring in more candidates from specific communities.

Misconceptions

Ested told a story about a young recruit in Richmond who had never interacted with African Americans until college and possessed negative beliefs about crime in the low-income Black community, yet was working the projects on an assignment with Ested. He recalled how the young cop was shocked to hear that Ested came from a project like the ones they patrolled, and that the mainstream talking point about African American poverty was wrong, and that the majority of people in low-income communities were lawful, hardworking citizens.

“A lot of these guys [police officers], when they look at the poor Black community, they look at the bad end because that’s what we deal with as cops. … Just because you live in a poor neighborhood doesn’t mean everybody in that neighborhood is a bad element,” said Ested. “Poor neighborhoods have bad elements within them just because of poverty. Every time there’s poverty, it brings a certain criminal element. So, when you start talking about the police, you’re only called into that area when there’s a problem … a bad problem. The narrative and the viewpoints on both sides and trying to understand it, that’s where the whole Police Brutality Matters came from.”