I AM NOT YOUR ENEMY

Aug20officerwebam one of the 249 Los Angeles Police Officers currently assigned to Wilshire Division 1 of the Los Angeles Police Department.

We were essentially “ground zero” in the recent violent unrest. Perhaps you know me as the fascist, the stormtrooper, the pig, the bastard … and those are just some of the nicer names I’ve been called. I am the one you never recognize out of uniform, because you choose not to see that there is a person, an individual, who wears it. So please, let me take a moment to tell you about myself, because so many of you clearly don’t know me … and I am not your enemy.

I am one of the over 9,500 Los Angeles police officers who records approximately 14,000 public contacts on body-worn video every day, almost every one of which ends without conflict, complaint or issue. If you saw something on the news recently about a tragedy brought about by a police officer somewhere, I am one of over 750,000 police officers nationwide who would never be involved in such a heinous act. And if you or your family member was ever treated inappropriately by a police officer, I am one of the overwhelming number of LAPD officers who had absolutely nothing to do with that. On the contrary, I’m the one left to work that much harder to regain the trust and respect I never deserved to lose.

I am not your enemy. I acknowledge the egregious errors of my profession and the historical injustices committed by police officers, including those from my own department. But I am not the one that committed them. I freely admit I am a person who has made mistakes; sometimes because I’m tired, sometimes because I’m having a bad day, sometimes just because human error is just that – human. I admit and acknowledge there is a small percentage of those among us who have acted out of carelessness, laziness or even criminality. I admit there are those who do not deserve the honor and privilege of the badge I hold so dear. But, overwhelmingly, I am not one of them. I am not your enemy.

Eighty-seven percent of my Wilshire brothers and sisters, myself included, have been called a racist and a race traitor repeatedly throughout our careers. Yet, 82% of us are ourselves minorities. Perhaps I am one of the 13% of Wilshire officers who is an immigrant, or one of another 46% who is a first generation American – the child of an immigrant. I come from places as far and wide as Egypt, Greece, Lebanon, Mexico, Israel, Jamaica, South Korea, England, Vietnam, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Columbia, Nicaragua, Guatemala and the Philippines. I represent a cross-section of America from Texas to Alaska, Washington to New Jersey, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Mexico and Arkansas. I was raised in regions of Southern California as diverse as Watts, Santa Monica, East LA, Whittier and Long Beach, just to name a few.

Or perhaps I’m the Wilshire officer who, at the age of 5, was rescued when my overloaded boat sank from beneath me as my family attempted to flee Castro’s Cuba. I, too, have been a victim of racism, sexism, homophobia and even fascism. I assure you, I am not your enemy.

I am one of the 58% of officers assigned to Wilshire Division who has been forced to seek emergency medical attention for injuries sustained in service to people I don’t know and who rarely say thank you. Maybe I am one of the 45% who have been refused service or received service that made me question whether it was safe to even eat the meal I paid for, all because of the uniform I’m wearing.

I am the person who does my duty on a holiday, perhaps Christmas, New Year’s or Thanksgiving, away from my own family, responding to your family’s calls for service and assistance. Between those calls I drive down the street and smile and wave to children, only to have a percentage of them return that wave with a middle finger, because their parents have taught them to hate me.

The percentages and facts cited here are a true statistical representation of the demographics and career experiences of the 249 police officers assigned to Wilshire Division as of July 14, 2020. But I am not your enemy. I am the person who takes the verbal attacks and ridicule for being unable to solve a problem for which there are no answers in the realm of law enforcement. I weather the accusations of incompetence and ineptitude for failing to adequately fill the role of social worker, psychologist or sanitation employee.

This by public officials, as well as members of the public, who are more than willing to make me the scapegoat for society’s collective failures. I have very recently been called "murderer’' by those same elected government leaders. Yet still, I am not your enemy. Perhaps I am one of the 78% of officers who hopes to go home safely at the end of each shift to a spouse or partner; or one of the 76% who is a loving parent to a child who was born to me or whom I adopted. Maybe I am one of the 27% who is a military veteran who pursued this profession to continue a heartfelt dedication to public service. Perhaps I’m one of the officers who left my prior profession as a chef or a teacher, in aerospace, the health field, engineering, financial management or accounting, and joined the department as a second career.

A full 32% of us were willing to risk starting over, many at a substantial pay cut, in order to be part of something good and decent – something larger than self. I buy Girl scout cookies, support school fundraisers, coach Little League, and adopt shelter animals.

I am not your enemy. I am perhaps, myself, a political activist who has also marched and demonstrated on my personal time to advocate for my rights as well as yours. Then, while on duty, I have stood my post between opposing demonstrators in order to protect everyone’s rights. In recent weeks I have spent hours blocking traffic to protect and facilitate protest marchers advocating specifically against me. Simultaneously, I would be standing only feet away from destroyed and looted buildings displaying graffiti that openly advocated my death. Yet still, I am able to discern a difference between the protesters and the rioters and looters. I am steadfast in my refusal to blame the many for the criminal acts of the few, despite the fact that same objective fairness is rarely afforded to me.

I do this because I am not your enemy. I am a person willing to risk my safety to protect the ideals of this country, while acknowledging we have not yet truly achieved them. I spend every day standing against hate, against racism, against sexism, and against homophobia. I stand for freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly. I stand in defense of your ability to move about society safely, free of fear and intimidation. I might not always succeed in my stand, but I am willing, quite literally, to die trying.

I do not require your appreciation and I willingly accept your fair and objective criticism, but I certainly do not deserve your hate. Because I am not your enemy. I am a father, a son, a mother, a daughter, a husband, a wife, a sister and a brother. I am Black, white, Asian, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern, or increasingly, some combination of several. I am gay, I am straight, I am Bi and I am Trans. I am Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Protestant, Muslim, Buddhist, Jehovah’s Witness, atheist and agnostic. I am conservative and liberal; a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent (but while on duty, I am always apolitical). You may not know me, but quite simply, I am very much like all of you. I am an American, an idealist, a dedicated public servant. I am a Los Angeles Police Officer. But above all else, I promise, I am not your enemy.
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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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