In all of media and the world around us, there is a constant discourse on the police.
On one side, we have people using the acronym “ACAB” meaning “all cops are bad/bastards,” and saying we should “defund the police.” On the other side, we have “Blue Lives Matter,” a racist retort to the Black Lives Matter movement, and the creation of the thin blue line flag meant to symbolize the police as somehow the only thing keeping society from falling into chaos.
My personal beliefs on cops are no secret, and yet when an emergency arose my first response was to turn to the cops for help.
When I got past the automated system of my local police department, I stated my need to file a missing person report. The person on the line asked for my name, and without hesitation, I gave them my legal name. As a nonbinary transgender person, my legal name does not represent me and makes me feel incredibly dysphoric. I wanted to use an authentic name, but since the police have a long history of harassment and violence against the LGBT+ community I decided against advocating for myself in that moment.
I was searching for a member of my family, so I couldn’t risk losing out on the police’s help. My help from the police came with the condition of erasing myself. Getting help from the police shouldn’t be conditional, and yet for the LGBT+ community and POC, it often is. Seeing as our current policing system largely grew to unfairly punish Black people, prejudice has long been built into the system.
Having no intention to offend. I would like to acknowledge my privileges. I’m a half-white, half-Latine person, but appear white for the most part. I hardly get clocked as trans, so the most pain I worry about is mental anguish versus physical harm. I’m not a homeless person whom the police feel the constant need to harass. My mental health disorders or disabilities aren’t readily visible, so I’m not in danger of being mistreated for those as well. I recognize that I have a great deal of privilege when it comes to police interactions, thus allowing me to have the safe interaction I did.
In the state of Connecticut, we like to think that the same police violence doesn’t happen here. Connecticut may be a more progressive state in some regards (not in regard to paying fair wages to people with disabilities), but the largest police settlement in U.S. history happened right here in New Haven. New Haven police injured Randy Cox paralyzing him from the chest down. In June of this year, CT Mirror published an article on Black Americans in the state discussing policing which was quite eye-opening. Many Black residents of the state reported being targeted and mistreated by Connecticut’s police. Connecticut mother, Joan Biggs, said, “Police is a person you should have confidence in because they’re supposed to be protecting you.” Society finds it hard to have confidence in a system that is hardly ever held accountable for its crimes.
As of now, confidence in the police is at its lowest. According to a 2022 Gallup poll, only 45% of Americans reported feeling a “great deal” of confidence in the police. Factoring in race, the contrast in confidence is vast. Black Americans are the least confident in police, and for good reason. In 2020, George Floyd became a household name for being murdered by the police awakening many to the ideas of anti-racism, and yet his death is part of a long history of violence against the Black community. Confidence in police dropped to its lowest point in 2020 and has only continued to decline since then. A 2023 Gallup poll found that while 74% of white Americans are at least somewhat confident in police, Black Americans only report 56% of that same confidence.
If the police just helped people in need like they did for me, then society would have greater confidence in them. I know that the police are capable of helping people because they helped me. Without the police, my story might not have had the happy ending that it did.
Within 40-50 minutes of the call I made, a patrol officer was dispatched to my house in the early morning. He quickly managed to find my person, get ahold of them to confirm their safety, and then share their address with me. At that moment, a police officer gave a person like me the greatest relief one could. He really helped me. Helping people is one of the greatest possible joys, and I wish we were at a point where the police could see that, too. That officer might not understand or even think much about what he did, but if he does, I really hope he sees that the police providing help is the only way to go.
By definition, a police officer’s job is to help society, and yet many have to fear being harmed or even murdered by a cop. Police can be helpers and not abusers. Police could even be heroes in our eyes they just have to be the positive change we want to see in this world.
I want to live in a world where no one has to fear the cops, and we all know that we can go to the cops for help. I have hope that someday we can rely on the police to protect us, but realistically don’t see that being anytime soon. I will keep supporting police reform like many others do with the explicit hope that someday the words “police” and “help” can become synonymous.
Anastazz Valentine lives in Enfield.