Jason Arment

Interview with an Anonymous Police Officer

To give the public insight into what it is to be a police officer in this nation, Jason Arment interviewed a Law Enforcement Officer and assured anonymity to get brutally honest answers.

 

When the Nation of Islam referred to the police as the “Blue Klux Klan,” how did that make you feel?

It really didn’t make me feel anything really. I grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood and I am very familiar with the Nation. I grew up with kids who had parents associated with the Nation and from a very young age I was educated about Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Marcus Garvey, and other “non-traditional” African American leaders. I think when the Nation makes statements like this they make a blanket statement about all police officers being racist. As a Latino man, the Nation does not know me and does not speak for me. While I am very familiar with the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, who has shown genius and silliness in his writings, I know the Nation is a product and industry, from selling bean pies to Final Call papers. They care about Allah and the Dolla’. Just like the Catholic Church or Scientology. I doubt that the comparison has any merit. So the statement makes me feel nothing, because the KKK would not show up at a child abuse call in the projects at 3:00 a.m. or investigate the murder of a prostitute on Colfax.

 

If you were to have worked on a department which had problems with excessive force, how would that make you feel?

It would make me feel exhausted. I do work for a department that has been accused of excessive force, but if I did work at a department that truly had members that were out of control it would be exhausting because every time I came to work I would have to worry about being caught up in that type of behavior. But it is frustrating when supervisors from your own department accuse you of using excessive force when those same supervisors spent very little time on the street working in dangerous neighborhoods, or they’re trying to hang you out to dry for their own political gain.

 

When people fail to understand the sacrifices the police make for the community, how does that make you feel?

It doesn’t make me feel anything in all honesty. I never did anything in my life to gain reward or have someone tell me “good job.” I do feel bad for younger officers who never knew a time when police were respected, but I remind them that people do appreciate what they do and that they are needed and that they should remember that if people didn’t “need” us they wouldn’t call 911 when they are in trouble.

 

Why did you join the police force?

I joined because I really had no skills to do anything else, but I always felt I was good with people and was empathetic to those that were marginalized. I grew up in a household with politically active parents who were in the civil rights movement, labor unions, La Raza, and “El Movimiento.” When I was a kid, Cesar Chavez slept in our house. The last thing I was going to do was become a police officer as my parents didn’t really trust the police. But as I got older, I saw a lot of the myths about the cops that were perpetuated by people in my community were bullshit. I met some good decent police when I was young and, when I got into trouble, I realized that every time I had been arrested, “jammed up,” or stopped by the police, it was usually because me and my homeboys were doing something we weren’t supposed to do.

 

Do you regret your decision to join?

Sometimes things suck, and it is frustrating when people think they can tell me how to do my job, or that a lot of people in the media are critical. As a detective, I have it a lot easier than the cops on the street, but I don’t regret it because I know the reality of the job and how people in some communities feel about the police and if I wanted to be loved I would work in the suburbs or I would have been a fireman.

 

When you doubt the system, what do you doubt?

I don’t really doubt the system, but I doubt people who have oversight over the system. I think we put people in place that have their say in the police, courts, probation, parole as political favors and they have no experience or sense of reference. They want to treat the criminal justice system as a science when it is actually an art.

 

Do you feel safe as a police officer?

As a detective I do feel safe, but sometimes I do get concerned because I have put people away and I am sure that they, or their families, would like to get even with me and I do take precautions. I am currently investigating a gang murder and I know that at some point all of these gangsters will know my name, if they don’t already, and that arrests might come. I don’t feel fear for myself, but I do worry about my family. As a street officer I always felt that I could handle myself and I got a little overconfident, so much so that I stopped wearing my vest after a few years. What the public doesn’t know is that in this city cops are assaulted every week and some of them are injured severely.

 

What threats do you think most endanger the community at large?

I think gun violence is the biggest threat. We have a lot of guns in this country with a lot of people who are willing to use them pretty quickly.

 

Why do you think parts of the community refuse to acknowledge the merits of having a police department?

I think it is fashionable for some to act like they don’t like the police or need them. Every portion of society needs a “boogey man.” There are some that think we don’t need police at all and that they can take care of themselves. Having worked in a prison and growing up with guys who were gang members, killers, drug dealers, or other violent people, a lot of people would be praying for some sort of police after a few months. What they don’t realize is that there are some people out there that are not afraid to take what you have.

 

Where do you see the nation in ten years: Do you see a nation divided, or do you see a nation that has come together?

In ten years, the nation will pretty much be the same. We have never had perfect harmony here and we will always have problems and anguish. A lot of people love to argue, fuss, and fight, except after people fly planes into buildings and then we love each other for a few months.

 

Do you think that “radical Islam” is an actual threat to our national security?

I think it can be a threat, but we can control how much it affects us. We have to realize that there are people who are very motivated to kill themselves for their beliefs and that is a hard concept for us to wrap our minds around. I don’t see another 9/11 style attack, but I think we will see incidents like the Boston bombing and the mass shooting in San Bernardino at least a few times a year.

 

Why do you feel that racism is so alive and well in this nation?

I think that racism has always existed and will always exist because there is something fundamentally wrong with people in needing a reason to mistrust others. If it is not race, it will be religion, class, or even over what sports team people like. Humans, for some reason, need conflict and, contrary to popular belief, white people don’t have the market cornered on racism, people of color share in this disease.

 

Do you plan on staying with the police until retirement?

I do.

 

What are ways that government and laws could change to help provide safer communities and ultimately a more harmonious union?

Nothing. People need to be responsible for their own behavior and treat each other better. It sounds corny and simple, but the government can only do so much. We always seem to look to Big Brother to give us what we need. But discipline and morality can’t be given to us by the government.

 

How could the United States do a better job of protecting its citizens from mass shootings?

I would like to see better control over who can possess weapons and how they obtain them. I do think we need better tracking over how people sell and buy weapons. It makes sense that we should have some sort of system in place for registering guns as we register vehicles. With respect to banning “assault weapons” and high capacity magazines, I don’t think it will make a difference because there are so many weapons in this country already and the life span of these weapons are decades. A motivated shooter will use any kind of weapon at his disposal, whether it be an AR-15 with a high capacity mag or a 9mm with only a 7 shot magazine.

 

Jason Arment

Jason Arment served in Operation Iraqi Freedom as a Machine Gunner in the USMC. He's earned an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work has appeared in Narrative Magazine, Lunch Ticket, Chautauqua, Hippocampus, The Burrow Press Review, Dirty Chai, and War, Literature & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities; anthologized in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors Volume 2 & 4; and is forthcoming in Gulf Coast, The Florida Review, and Phoebe. Jason lives in Denver.

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