It might be unexpected to hear a retired cop with 20 years on the force say, “As a kid growing up in Detroit in the ’60s and ’70s, I grew to hate police.”
Nevertheless, it’s the origin story of FGCU justice studies Professor David Thomas. But his youthful view makes more sense when he shares his reasoning: “[I didn’t hate them] because they were police, but because of the brutality that my friends and I experienced at the hands of the police.” Today, Thomas remains fixated on the relationship between the police and minority communities, which he artfully explores in his new book, “The State of American Policing.”
Thomas, who holds a Ph.D. in forensic psychology, is uniquely qualified to take on this topic, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. “In my case,” he said, “I am ‘us’ and ‘them,’ on either side of the equation. Police have challenged me because I was black and limited my acceptance to ‘the club,’ and blacks have challenged me and called me a traitor or an ‘Uncle Tom’ because I was a cop and now a professor. My hope is that I can act as a catalyst, a sounding board or a liaison, if you will, that both sides are willing to listen to.”
But clashes between the police and minority communities have been going on for years. Which begs the question: Why this book now? “I wrote this book because I am tired of the senseless violence on both sides. Police have done a horrible job of explaining why they do what they do.
The minority communities don’t trust the police, and view every shooting as an act of racism, and fail to accept the facts. The minority community fails to recognize that police are human, they will make mistakes, and there is no magic piece of equipment that can stop a subject in many instances without killing them,” Thomas said.
Thomas’ book uses real-world situations to illustrate the problems Americans face. “These are tough issues: a failing history in policing, a culture that needs to change but refuses to, police decision making and race, implicit bias, police privilege and black hysteria, militarization of police, and deadly force, all hot topics and relevant. I understand the feelings of the black community, and I understand the cops are angry. The reality is, to continue to hate each other and not work together sets both sides up for failure,” Thomas said. The professor believes the path to common ground is simpler than one might expect.
“The black community wants to be treated fairly, and the police want to be respected and supported. Both sides are lost behind their words, and neither is listening to the other,” Thomas writes at the conclusion of his book.
“When will both sides be willing to place their agendas aside, come to the table, and create lasting, meaningful solutions to problems that have plagued police/community relations since slavery?” Thomas’ book, “The State of American Policing,” is available now from Amazon.