The Police ‘Safety’ Video That Never Should Have Been Made
Recently, a Black country music star named Coffey Anderson created a video showing the “proper protocol” when being pulled over by police. The fact that he felt compelled to make this public service announcement says so much about this country and our addiction to racialized violence.
The roughly four minute long video runs through things like where to put your ID and registration, where you should place your hands, and even how to sit in your seat when you are pulled over by police.
What is probably most disturbing about this footage is that it justifies excessive violence from police by rationalizing the assumption that, as any person moves around their car, they could be pulling a weapon. As seen in the case of Philando Castile, he was a licensed gun owner and announced that he had a weapon. Even though he did not threaten police with the firearm, he was fatally shot in front of his child and girlfriend. This isn’t about behaving and following protocols. This is about the fact that people of color are too often assumed to be threatening and only able to be subdued with physical violence.
Repeatedly in the video, Anderson notes that “this is about going home” implying that the pulled over citizen has control over whether or not an officer kills them. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Unarmed Black people were killed at 5x the rate of unarmed Whites in 2015. Black people are grossly over-represented in police murders not because they didn’t follow behavior protocols but because the officers themselves did not value their lives enough to “serve and protect them.”
One of the most terrifying things in the world is having someone pull a gun on you. It has happened to me twice in my life. Both times were because someone wanted to rob me. But, when a police officer in 2007 placed her hand on a her gun while questioning my spouse and I at a routine traffic stop, I was more afraid for my life than I have ever been. I was riding in the passenger seat at five months pregnant with my first child. We had been speeding down the 5 freeway on our way back to Los Angeles from Oakland and were eating a late lunch, never noticing the police lights behind us.
When the White officer got to our car, she was clearly agitated. She let us know we were speeding and asked for the proper documents. I leaned over to the glove compartment to get the registration and she unhooked the clasp on her gun. My partner and I froze.
That was the moment when I realized how easy it would have been for her to murder both of us on the side of that busy highway. It was a feeling of hopelessness, terror, and shock simultaneously.
In that moment, I said to her, “I am just getting the registration. I’m pregnant and we don’t have a gun.” She kept her hand on her gun. I could see her fingers trembling, as were mine. Yes, we made it home that day but I still shiver when I think about what that officer could have done to my partner and our unborn child that day. If she had of killed us, she would likely have been seen as justified.
We didn’t make it home that day because of protocols. We made it home because we were lucky. She could have just as easily made a different choice. She could have done a host of things that resulted in irrevocable damage to our lives.
If any video should be made, it should be one teaching police officers about racial bias and profiling. It should focus on the ways that officers too often assume their lives are in danger just because the person they are pursuing or questioning is Black. It should interrogate the ways that even those who are unarmed, standing still, doing nothing can still be killed by police for merely existing. Those are the only videos that need to be made at this moment in history.
Photo: YouTube screenshot
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