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What is it like to be a black police officer in America?

NewsHour's Hari Sreenivasan sits down with the President of the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas for a deeper look at police misconduct, the code of silence, and what it is like to be both a police officer and an African American in 2016.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    How long do you think until this community heals itself from this?

  • LIEUTENANT THOMAS GLOVER:

    I'd like to say we're on our way to healing now but all it takes is the next bad actor to upset that…

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    We went to see Lieutenant Thomas Glover in Dallas two days after the police shootings. He's the President of the area's Black Police Association and has the perspective on what it's like to be a police officer and an African American. I started by asking him if it's possible to want criminal justice reform while at the same time valuing the life of every police officer.

  • LIEUTENANT THOMAS GLOVER:

    I think it is, as an individual I'm that way, as an African American man, in America with over 35 years on the police department, I am that way. The majority of the police officers that I know, we all want to see behavior that is improperly exhibited by a police officer criminalized. You have to do your job as a police officer and then on the other hand when you remove your uniform and badge and you go home many of us spend our times in the black community. The social organizations we tend to become members of are black, the fraternities, sororities, alumni associations so we go from being police officers who work in a process where its our duty to do what we were sworn to do and that's uphold the laws but then you have some very heinous things that happen. I will not compromise my convictions, as an African American male for the convenience of being a police officer, just can't do it. I have reported misconduct. I have reported what I believe was to be excessive force and I have vigorously tried to call out people who openly practice what I would say were discriminatory acts or racist acts of treatment of people of color. And so that crossroads is very evident as an African American police officer because first of all you are a part of the community. There's nothing I will ever be able to do that will dissolve my black skin, nothing.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Your unwillingness to compromise both of those identities, has that cost you in your career?

  • LIEUTENANT THOMAS GLOVER:

    That's the dilemma we are faced with because we are expected to do whatever is necessary to be that officer of the law 24/7. We are also expected to be the African-American brother, father, uncle, cousin, pastor, deacon, 24/7 too. And that makes it a grueling task. I do think that people who are deliberately bringing forth misconduct who so to speak break what you call code of silence, I don't think they have the opportunity move up in Police Department's the way others do. When you complain about misconduct in many instances you are labeled as a troublemaker, a militant, you're radical.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The Dallas Police Department knows exactly where you stand?

  • LIEUTENANT THOMAS GLOVER:

    Yes they know. They know where i stand.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    There are so many people right now in the country who feel like, if I'm in trouble the cops are not who I call. How do you change that?

  • LIEUTENANT THOMAS GLOVER:

    It's sad that we've gotten to this point but it is a fixable problem. It's fixable by people listening. It's fixable by people who commit the heinous acts being prosecuted and it's fixable by always giving people a forum to go in and make a complaint and listening to it and not discouraging them.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Are the concerns of African American communities in the United States right now against police departments and how the police or treating them, are they legitimate?

  • LIEUTENANT THOMAS GLOVER:

    I definitely believe that the concerns are totally legitimate. 110%. The concerns of my community ought to be the concerns of mine. It doesn't say that I have to agree with everything that's said, doesn't mean that everything that is said is true. But you owe it to the community to investigate, to make vigorous attempts at identifying the problem. If I am a member of the community whether it be black, Hispanic, Asian or white and I complain about a police behavioral act that I saw, then we have to deal with it. We can't sidestep it.

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