*I saw the film Birth of a Nation last night, and without giving any spoilers, I was struck by the “each one, teach one” action that eventually became a prominent piece of the film. So when I came across this story about a man named Kyle Johnson; who has had some bad experiences with cops, and because of this, he now wants to be one, I thought back to last night and the film.
It’s not often that people see how bad things are, and instead of complaining about them, decided to take it on and do it better.
That’s what Kyle wants to do: Be a cop…a good cop.
I don’t know if being a good cop would be my first, second or even third thought if I, not unlike Kyle, had at one time had my head bashed into the grass by some cop with “anger issues.” Those were the words an officer used as he apologized to Kyle Johnson for the actions of his quick-tempered partner.
Here’s what happened during Kyle’s first run-in with police.
The now 25-year-old was 18 at the time and, according to the Washington Post, had exited a nightclub to find his cousin’s Ford Taurus was one of several cars that had been broken into, with windows smashed and everything. When the cops arrived, Kyle tried to hand the officer his ID and registration, but the cop just started cursing at him.
I swear, it sounds just like one of those movies we’ve seen on so many occasions, with the cop saying something like…
“You trying to be smart with me boy?”
And this apparently angered the officer even more. Instead of stooping to the cops level, Kyle said…
“I can see you’re having a bad day. I’ll just wait for another officer.”
Oh boy. That did it!
When Kyle turned around, the officer tackled him to the ground, and forced his head into the grass before placing him in handcuffs.
According to WP, as Kyle sat on the curb, another officer approached. He apologized for the first cop’s behavior and explained that the officer had been having some anger issues. He then promised Kyle that he would make sure everything got worked out.
The officer kept his word, and although Kyle had to go down to the station, he was not charged with anything.
Kyle, the father of a 3-year-old son, and as of this year has a fiance, recently moved out of his mom’s home into a place large enough to hold his son Kacen’s race-car bed. But don’t get it twisted, this guy is no slouch. As Kacen watched from his daddy’s fiance Tanniqua Nichols’ lap yelling “Go daddy!” the proud father marched in uniform to accept his graduation certificate from the Anne Arundel Community College Police Academy.
Kyle, who works at one of the airports in Baltimore handling baggage, has also been applying for police officer positions.
Needless to say, it’s a tough career for a Black man.
One day he came home only to find an envelope he was hoping wouldn’t be there. It was from Morgan State University’s police department, the first agency Kyle applied to after graduating from a community college police academy.
He already knew if they had wanted to hire him, they would have called.
Wearing his big boy pants he simply said to himself, “Okay, on to the next.”
Why is it though, the seemingly easier route also has complications? Major ones.
Kyle thought it would certainly be practical to apply to the Baltimore Police Department right there in his hometown. Afterall, they were having a hiring spree — and seeking minority candidates to boot. But they had just been on TV again earlier that day, because the charges against the officers accused in the case of Freddie Gray had just been dropped. Of course this meant no one would be held accountable for the young man who fell into a coma and died in the back of a police van.
Why walk into a troubled police department with your eyes wide open?
Meanwhile, as Kyle remains focused on a life in the police department, Tanniqua is fearful for her husband-to-be based on her own experiences with cops.
She recalls his promise to be the Good Cop because he learned how to from the academy. All he needs to do is stick to his training and document everything.
Easier said than done.
He learned that when there are bad apples in law enforcement, “all the other apples can smell it.” He has decided that he’ll be the one who reports them.
Boom! I can understand her fear, can’t you?
“I never grew up to say, ‘I hate cops,’ but I could have, from how I was treated,” Tanniqua told the WP one fall afternoon in their new apartment. She had taken the day off from her job doing laundry at a retirement home so she could train for a second job as a legal secretary.
“I tell Kyle these stories. He listens. He understands,” she said.
She also tries to train Kyle in her own way; presenting him with scenarios he may run into as a cop, and asking how he would handle them.
And then there’s the other side of the story she is all too familiar with. There are the people who hate the cops. She imagines her “Good Cop” husband out there, being polite and responsible and open-minded — “and somebody can take him for granted, and he can lose his life.”
Bad things happen to good people all the time.
Tanniqua fears the “Ferguson Effect,” they talk about on the news. Officers fear being seen as the next Bad Cop, so they hesitate to use force, and then they become the victims.
“Because some people just don’t give a f— at all,” she said. “He might be out there, meet that person and ask them what the problem is, and they pull out a gun because on that day, they’ve had it,” Tanniqua tells the WP.
As I alluded to earlier, this is a tough gig for a brother. But then again, tough was never a good enough reason to not go after something so I wish Kyle Johnson Godspeed in his pursuit.
Read more about Tanniqua’s feelings on the topic, and why she feels this way, here.