Monday Musings: A Changing Attitude Towards the Philadelphia Police

Say it Rah-shay By Sep 30, 2013 11 Comments

mondaymusings (1)

One day last week I arrived home to find my street lit up with the blue and red lights of Philadelphia’s finest. There were about six or so police cars blocking the cross street that intersects mine. Ironically enough, moments earlier before we had turned on our street, The Bee, Dill and I were having a conversation about crime and all of a sudden our conversation became real. We speculated about what had happened and I decided to find out. I left the kids in the car and crossed, approaching the five or so officers who were standing around, I waved my arms to get their attention and alert them that I was approaching and called hello and asked what happened. There was a small group of officers and I did not address any one officer, I just directed the question at the group. I explained that I lived in the neighborhood, pointed out my house which is diagonal from the crime scene and was interested in what happened in my neighborhood. One officer replied, “Just your average shooting in a neighborhood like this, is that OK?” I was so shocked that I could only make a half-hearted quip about gentrification being delayed and walked back to the car and unloaded the kids and our bags. I fumed; I was angry, I was upset, I was embarrassed and feeling justified in every hateful, mean thought I have had against police. I passive aggressively called the officer a few choice names and hustled the kids into the house to get dinner ready, to finish homework and get ready for the evening.

Still fuming I went outside and sat on my front steps to just observe what was going on and to call Effin Guy to vent. I did not want to take my bad mood into the house and I was still upset about how rude that officer was to me. As I raged I observed another officer walking across the street looking at the front of houses. He noticed me and approached, walked up my steps and asked if he could speak with me. My guard was up and I asked Effin Guy if he could hold on while this cop spoke with me. The officer asked if I were the person who was across the street previously and then identified himself as a Sargent. He apologized for the officer’s behavior stating that the officer had no right to talk to me in that way and that I could be assured that he would be disciplined. I thanked the officer and explained that I was really curious about my neighborhood; I explained that I have children who had just been having a conversation about crime and I wanted to be sure that we were safe. I thanked him again and soon after went into the house to finish getting dinner ready.

I’ve taken a few days to think back about what happened. What was going on there? Was that one officer taking out his frustration about senseless violence out on me? Was he afraid that my approaching him was putting him and the four other men he was standing with in harm? Was I out of line to ask about what was happening in my neighborhood? My experience with the police has not always been positive and it is difficult for me to trust their presence. But my hardened stance against the idea of police has been softened by an officer I work with at the library, my sister’s involvement with the Upper Darby police department and the interaction I had with that Sargent. In the past I have voiced concerns about dialing 911 and wonder if I will hesitate.

The other thing that I have been trying to wrap my head around is HOW people view my neighborhood. My neighborhood is not awful but does show signs of neglect and abandonment, in fact the house next door to me is abandoned and the small patch of lawn in front of it is often overgrown with weeds and litter. I too am guilty of leaving my front unswept and my garden is way past needing to be trimmed and tidied. Are these things that would lead visitors to my neighborhood to feel as if they can treat the residents as less than? Does this give people the right to assume that the neighborhood and it’s residents are junk?

The mailman in my neighborhood rushes through, often leaving my mail at the abandoned house (cause the clearly boarded up front door must mean someone is home?), people litter with abandon and I am not even as present as I could be often taking off for areas outside of my home when I have time off. Should I be home I can be found tucked inside my home. I barely know my neighbors and am really OK with that. Maybe an attitude adjustment on my part is needed for anything to change. I cannot reasonable complain about what “they” are doing if I don’t even know who “they” are.

Thinking back I can say that I appreciate that the Sargent addressed what happened and I feel better that he did. The cynical part of me wants to think nasty thoughts such as I was only humored so that I would not make a stink. But a pragmatic part of me realizes that police officers are not all bad and the Sargent was being decent. I am sure there will be something else to have me rant and rave but for now I feel like my snarky police comments can be put to rest for a while.


I am mom, daughter, sister, yarn lover, word lover, crazy cat lady and library chick. Find me with book or with hook and a hot cuppa.


  1. I’m really sorry this happened to you. I applaud your courage to take the high road about it. And honestly, Rachee, neighborhoods are falling apart all over the map, regardless of where they stand on the “class” divide, because of people abandoning homes. Happens every where. As for that officer, maybe we can look at it like this: his BOSS had the presence of mind to discipline him and apologize, so you have a leader in the area willing to look at things in the right way. Maybe that cop will learn something real from that discipline, we can only hope and pray. Peace to you.

  2. Xandra says:

    I’m sorry you had that experience. I think there are polite and rude police all over the place. My parents live in a nice neighborhood and got a knock on the door one night around 1 am. POUNDING on the door. My mom woke my dad because it scared them (as it would anyone). When they saw it was police, they of course thought something had happened to one of us, especially because my husband works late and travels home at late hours. “Do you have a teenaged son?” they barked. As it turns out, there were some kids misbehaving and they were looking for them but their approach was just awful. I too wish I could feel more trust and compassion for the police, but I find it hard sometimes. I’m glad there was a spark of goodness in your experience. Sometimes the best we can do is focus on the good.

  3. I’m sorry you have to tolerate others’ opinions of the area you call home like that. I’m glad they were there, though, even if their response to your question wasn’t delivered well.

  4. Carrie says:

    My opinion of the police has taken a nosedive after an awful experience happened to a friend last week. AWFUL AWFUL experience, a you-might-hear-about-it-soon-on-the-news type of experience. I’m thankful the officer’s Sargent came forward to apologize, because it shows they are willing to work towards change. But you’d think comments like this just wouldn’t– and SHOULDN’T happen. Your reflections are valid for sure, but I’m hoping you see his comment a reflection on the commenter and not on you, the commentee. Thanks for sharing your voice in this important conversation.

  5. Kesha Brown says:

    Unfortunately, this happens a lot I hear. The police don’t trust us; we don’t trust them. It’s a bad situation all around. I am happy though that the Sergeant came over at least to apologize and recognize the cop’s bad attitude.

    Take care chica!

  6. Janel says:

    I would be ticked, too. Usually, cops do seem really cold while they’re at the scene of something unfolding, but still, that was over the top of a response and not professional.

  7. Anne says:

    I am glad the Sergeant apologized, and I hope the officer really is disciplined for his remarks, because that might make him think twice before snappping off like that next time. It must be stressfull in so many ways to live in a not so great area, and the last thing you need is the police making it worse.

  8. I really don’t know what to think about police officers. You hear about so many bad apples, yet you also hear about so many that risk their lives to help others. I guess that just like in all professions, they are too varied to assume anything.

  9. what a scary event to experience. I live in an area where we tend to look out for each other in our neighborhood and I would never give that up. I have lived in a neighborhood like what I am glad that the sergeant apologized to you though. No officer should ever talk to any citizen like that.

  10. MrsTDJ says:

    I have such mixed feelings about law enforcement. I come from a family with strong military and police ties, including my father. I was raised to respect, honor and trust them IMPLICITLY! But, as I made my way into adulthood, my father helped to show me the other side of law enforcement – the dark side and what having brown skin meant to those officers. I’m glad that the sergeant talked to you, yet I would definitely be writing a letter and calling the local precinct to follow-up on his inappropriate behavior.

  11. In this life I’ve learned that what one person thinks isn’t what everyone else might be thinking. You were not out of line to ask if you and your children were safe in your own neighborhood.

Your turn! Tell it to Rah-shay!