“Mommy, how can you tell the difference between a good cop & bad cop?”, is what my son asked when he was 9 years old. I wish I could say that I had an answer for him, but unfortunately I didn’t. Three years later, he still has questions. Trying to explain police brutality to a kid definitely isn’t an easy subject to tackle. He watches the news and hears about incidents where police have killed people, and most recently he took notice of the Philly cop accused of punching a woman in the face. When he asked me the question, I wondered if a white mother ever had their white son ask them the same question, and how did she happen to answer it.

How do you explain to little black, brown and yellow boys that not all police officers are bad. I tried to explain to my son that there are officers out there who genuinely take on that career choice because they want to serve their community, but that there are also some out there who abuse the privileges that are given to them, and because you’re never able to tell which one you’re dealing with, that it’s always best to respect the fact that they are ‘authority’ figures.

I refuse to implant in my son’s mind that all police officers are ‘pigs’ and target people of color. I would never want my son in a situation where he comes across an officer and feels that it’s OK for him to disrespect the officer and cop an attitude. Just a few days ago, we witnessed that happening at our local grocery store. A group of teenagers (both white & black) were hanging out in front of the grocery store on their bikes and skateboards, and clearly there were signs which stated ‘no loitering’ allowed. An officer, who was black, approached them and asked them to go elsewhere. Did they move immediately? Of course not. My son asked me why weren’t they leaving. The officer, for the 2nd time, asked them to move their group to the park, a few started to grab their stuff to leave but one kid didn’t bother to budge. An older lady who was putting groceries in her car, walked up to the kid and basically told him to listen to the officer and leave. He listened to the older lady, but apparently he didn’t feel the need to listen to the officer. Thankfully the situation didn’t escalate. But where was the respect for an authority figure? Was the kid taught that?

I’m extremely cautious when it comes to raising my son, but I also realize I can’t shield him from everything. Hopefully in equipping him with information on how to handle different situations, and the fact that respect should be given to authority figures of all types, he’ll understand that some people truly are there to “protect and serve” and not brutalize.

Have you discussed police brutality with your child or younger family member? How did you approach the subject?

  • Mademoiselle

    I think children should be taught to never give any adult absolute authority because all adults are capable of causing them harm. Children look to adults as authority figures to guide and protect them, but parents should make sure their kids aren’t becoming attached to the title these adults hold. What I mean is police officers, clergypeople, teachers, coaches, bosses, etc are all people in authoritative positions, but that doesn’t mean that all of them are good, and you won’t always be able to pick the bad ones out on first meet. Kids should be taught to respect adults while maintaining a critical eye. Be aware, be alert, and pay attention to those feelings of “this doesn’t seem right.” Make sure your kids know when and why to say no, and how to get themselves out of situations safely. Yes police are generally in place to protect the community, but the primary role of protecting yourself belongs to you. So if a police officer is doing or saying something that puts you in danger, be smart and act quickly.

  • Mademoiselle

    Set my comment free

  • oswald

    any ! even good cops can become criminal cops, if you squese them hard enough , after all when they have to chose between you and leting down there felow oficer there job , and the sistem as they cal it. this should not be a excuse however , but cops trust each other less than the person i they have to deal with. you!

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