COMMUNITY Summit addresses police issues
Things will get worse before they improve, the officer said.
CHAMPION -- The founder of Black Cops Against Police Brutality says black officers have to challenge their white counterparts to ensure that justice is dispensed fairly for all.
De Lacy Davis developed B-CAP for the purpose of assuring that everyone's rights are not abridged by the police, especially in urban America. The B-CAP organization's members are advocates for people who aren't given equal treatment by law enforcement officers.
All police, Davis said, take an oath to serve and protect. That pledge should be applied with balance and fairness.
"While race shouldn't matter, it does," he said.
Unfortunately, he said, police culture hasn't changed much in the last 50 to 100 years: Whites are largely still in charge even in predominantly black cities, and adding more black officers hasn't necessarily made things better for blacks.
"Just because they look like us doesn't mean they have an agenda that benefits the community," Davis said.
A local rift
He was in Champion on Friday for a Black Men's Summit at Kent State University Trumbull Campus.
He has read news accounts about the U.S. Justice Department, which began investigating the Warren Police Department in January. They were sent to him by Warren Urban Minority Alcohol & amp; Drug Abuse Outreach Program Inc., one of the summit's sponsors.
While he wouldn't directly address the Warren police issue, Davis did take time with other program guests to drive around Warren before the summit and speak to people.
"There just seems to be an inherent rub that is not positive between the police and poor communities of color," he said, adding this also is seen in other American communities including Youngstown, Cincinnati and his native New Jersey.
"I don't think all police are bad. I just think the culture has to change," he said.
Davis, a sergeant, has been a police officer for 19 years at the East Orange Police Department. He is an instructor at the Essex County Police Academy and a New Jersey state-certified firearms instructor.
Asserting their beliefs
Black cops, Davis maintained, have to speak out when they see wrongdoing and not compromise their principles; those in charge of the department also have to give them -- particularly younger officers -- opportunities in their chosen field that will allow them to make such a difference.
Most important, he said, the fairness issue has to be discussed, and a community has to issue a report card on its police. Events such as the Black Men's Summit, which organizers plan to make an annual event, are a good start.
"If you are serious about changing the relationship between the police and the community here in Warren, then you would sit down with people in the community and allow them to shape what goes on in the community," Davis said.
The Friday summit got the men and some women together to share, get educated and then educate others, rather than ignoring that relationship.
However, he warned: "I think it's going to get worse, and then better. The people who put this [summit] together are going to get pressure from the power structure, because there are some who like it the way it is. That's why it's been that way so long."
He suggests that cops work to see the good in each person.
From Warren, the U.S. Justice Department has asked for pictures of all the police officers, reports on all the K-9 handlers and additional internal affairs complaints. Officials also have met with current and former city officials and some members of the police department. They appear to be concerned about strip-searches by city police officers.
The city has said it's complying with the department's requests.
In 1994, Davis was awarded the prestigious Renault Robinson Award by the National Black Police Association, an organization that boasts over 40,000 members nationwide. He has appeared on MTV, "Nightline," "Ricki Lake," C-Span, "Oprah," "Maury Povich," "Like It Is with Gil Noble," NBC's "Positively Black," Black Entertainment Television's "Teen Summit," and "Tonight With Tavis Smiley."