LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — As protests continue across the nation around the death of George Floyd and the issue of policing, Black police officers are finding themselves in the middle on an emotional tightrope.
8 News Now spoke with Metro police officers about their life being Black while wearing blue.
“My son was 9-years-old, and he said, ‘Mommy, you can’t take that job,'” recounted Regina Coward-Holman, a former Metro officer who retired from the force after 27 years.
Ten-year Metro officer Arnold Parker recalled, “‘You don’t look like a police officer’ … I’m like, ‘What does a police officer look like?'”
Both took an oath to protect and serve, just like Adrian Hunt, who also wants to make a difference in his home town.
“Everybody has their calling. My calling is service,” said Hunt, a 14-year Metro officer.
But as Black police officers, all three say there’s a struggle, especially as protests against police brutality erupt across the country.
“I’ve had plenty of calls in the past two, three months, of officers saying, ‘I just don’t know how to feel,’ because we are stuck in the middle,'” Hunt shared.
The death of unarmed Black Americans, like Breonna Taylor, who was shot in her home, and George Floyd, who died in police custody, have prompted calls for change.
“I had NO words,” said Coward-Holman. “That is the most reckless police act I’ve seen in my whole life.”
Tension between police and the Black community isn’t new. From the first slave patrol groups in the 1700s to segregation and Jim Crow in the 1960s, violence and racism toward Black Americans resulted in protests and uprisings.
Now in the year 2020, law enforcement is under the microscope.
For Coward-Holman, it is an ongoing discussion with her son. Hunt and Parker share experiences as Black men who have been profiled.
“I was 13 or 14, coming out the Meadows Mall. I had shotguns to my face, me and my buddies,” Hunt recounted, “and nobody ever said, ‘Oh, we’re sorry about that,’ or, ‘There was a mix-up, this is my number if you complaints.’ It was, ‘Oh, you guys are the wrong people. You can leave.'”
Parker said, “When I take this uniform off, I’m just a Black man. So, what is the next person, how are they looking at me?”
Hunt says he’s been questioned while in uniform:
“I had people in the riots tell me, ‘What you over there for? You need to be over here with us.’ It never crossed my mind where I’m supposed to be.”
But they are where they are supposed to be.
“You got kids that say that, ‘Hey, you know what? I never want to be a police officer,” and kids that used to gang bang, currently gang bang, to now, where they are actually thinking about becoming a police officer.”
Officers agree discussion about racial bias with coworkers can promote change on the job. Hunt says the Black police officers association helps bridge the gap.
But Black officers say there has to be intentional effort from everyone.
“Always push and push to get more people who look like me to join the department,” said Hunt.
“We have to continue to talk about Black lives, about systemic racism, about changes on the police department, being transparent, being held accountable,” Coward-Holman stressed.