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Campus cops, racism form focus of opinion

Published (Volume 76, No. 8)

I would like to respond to the people who have written in opinions about the actions of the UTM police officers during the night of Aug. 22 of this year. 

First, let me make a few things clear.  One, I work for the Department of Public Safety.  Two, this is my opinion and my opinion alone. I am not speaking for anyone but myself when I write this.  Three, I am white, I say this only in respect to the fact that this has been deemed a “racial issue” and I will not hide myself behind anonymity or the false pretense of being morally justified.  I feel the need to say these things in order that my words are better understood.

Having read the previously printed articles, I feel the need to respond to both Mr. Broussard’s (Vol. 76, issue 5) and Mr. Milan’s (Vol. 76, issue 4) at the same time.  In those two articles, many issues were presented, but solutions were few and far between.  The main issues that I saw were as follows: on campus employment of minorities; exclusion of African-American movies at Cine movie theatre; groups of minority students drawing officers; harassment by officers; and officers using pepper spray at the UC incident. 

The complaint about there not being enough on-campus employment for minority students is simple - it is not the fact that there are no jobs, it is the fact that there are no good jobs on-campus.  I should know, I work here.  In the department that I work in I see new people (black and white) coming and going all the time. This tells me that there are jobs to be had for those who really need the work.  I had to take an almost five dollar an hour pay cut from the job I had in my hometown when I came here, but I need the money so I do the work. 

The second issue of movies is more of a problem with production than with population, a good question to start with is, how many African-American movies are currently in theatres anywhere?  According to Blackfilm.com (a website supporting African-American films/filmmakers) there are two: The Rundown and The Fighting Temptations.  Of these two movies, only The Fighting Temptations has a predominately African-American cast.  The Rundown’s only African-American character is The Rock; the cast is otherwise fairly white.  For the purpose of this argument, and what I seem to think Mr. Milan’s view of an African-American movie is, we’ll say that there is one movie that is targeted, and therefore more truly, an African-American movie; that movie being The Fighting Temptations. 

I’m no movie critic, so I will not debate whether or not this movie is worth seeing, but how many times are you willing to go see the same movie just so that Cine will show the only African-American movie on the market?  Remember the movie Chicago, which won several Academy Awards? How long did it stay at Cine?  One week, because no one went to see it and it wasn’t worth the cost to keep showing it.

I see the last three issues (minority groups drawing officers, harassment, use of pepper spray) really as a single issue - police minority relations.  Working for Public Safety allows me a very good vantage point from which to see this issue. I see not only what happens to the minorities, but also what happens to white students.  I don’t know the precise numbers, but I hear a far greater number of complaints/violations about the white fraternities (some more than others) then I ever hear about the black fraternities.  I work at night on various days of the week, so I am privy to any number of noise violations, public drunkenness, suspicious person calls and nine times out of ten it will be a white person we are told to look for. 

To set the record straight about the UC incident, the officer was checking on the party.  The officer was simply doing a walk-through, as he would have for any other function. The pepper spray would never have been employed had the fighting parties stopped when asked.  The bystanders would never have been effected by the pepper spray had they left when asked.  Pepper spray is not an exact weapon. It is, as the name implies, a spray.  Once it is sprayed, the officers have no control over who is affected by it.  All that is a moot point, however, due to the fact that had there been no fight, there would have been no pepper spray used.  Blame the fighting parties, not the officers, because without them it never would have happened.

In regards to harassment, I feel it pertinent to reprint a section of Mr. Broussard’s article. “I believe I was harassed by an officer on my daily walk to class. In my opinion, this officer showed no patience and no professionalism. It seemed that he attempted to embarrass me in front of my peers by placing me in his car in front of Cooper Hall because I did not run to a sidewalk when he yelled at me to move. Or maybe I was singled out because I was wearing an Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. T-shirt. Another reason could be because I do not fear him.”

So let me get this straight. You were obviously in the road (within easy access of a sidewalk) when asked to move you did not do so in a timely manner.  Well, I’ll assume you weren’t arrested or anything like that (you didn’t say so), so you are angry because he put you in the back of his car “in front of your peers.”  As I recall, this incident happened at 8:50 in the morning.  How many of your “peers” are just hanging out in front of Cooper at that time of the morning?  Last time I checked a policeman’s motto wasn’t “Protect, Serve, and be feared by guys wearing Omega Psi Phi shirts,” so all I have to say is this:  get over yourself. No one said you have to fear cops, but you should respect them.  These officers get paid far too little for all they do for this school, and for all the crap they put up with on the side.  You might say I wouldn’t understand because I’m white. True I wouldn’t.  You wouldn’t understand what it was like to be a cop because you don’t have the decency to see them as people. You only see the badge and isn’t that a lot like only seeing a color?