It’s time for good cops to speak up

By Kevin Canessa Jr.

It’s happened again — twice, in fact — this time in Louisiana and in Minnesota.

In the course of a few days, two black men were shot dead by police and it appears by most accounts they were killed for simply being black.

Then, just days later, the unthinkable. A man who told police negotiators he wanted to kill “white people,” and more importantly, “white cops,” succeeded in his mission, as five of Dallas’ finest — including one who was a member of the city’s metropolitan transportation police force — were gunned down in the coldest of cold blood.

While it’s not particularly clear, it’s likely fair to say the killing of the police officers was triggered by the Louisiana and Minnesota killings.

Now let me make something very clear before I move on. I am very liberal. I am patriotic. And unlike the stereotypes that people often have for me as a lefty, I am and always have been pro law enforcement — when law enforcement does the right thing.

My own uncle, Robert A. Troy, was Chief of the Jersey City Police Department from 2004 to 2006. He was on the job for 25 years in total, from 1981 to his retirement in 2006.

There are many who say liberals always hate the police. In some instances, they’re right.

But that’s just not true with all liberals.

I stand behind good cops 100% of the time. In fact, in the march in Dallas that led to this awful carnage, it was inspiring to see, before the shooting began, just how much the DPD stood with so many of the protestors. Some marched. Others posed for selfies. Most had great chats with those assembled.

However, unlike many others who consider themselves “pro law enforcement,” I will speak out when I see bad cops. I will not give blanket support to police when there are many who shouldn’t be on the job, let alone getting blanket praise.

Unfortunately, there are far too many who are pro-cop who are pro-cop no matter what.

In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a cop in this country who would ever speak out against bad cops, like the bad ones in Minnesota and Louisiana.

Herein lies my biggest problem with law enforcement.

It seems unfathomable that high-ranking police officials would ever speak out about bad policing.

When I think of my chosen profession, one of the biggest aspects of the job is that we leave ourselves open for immense criticism. In 24 years as a journalist, I’ve received death threats for things I’ve written about. I’ve been called names I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to hear. And yet, thinking back to all of those instances, to all those times of intense criticism, I wouldn’t change a thing because the reality is, those criticisms helped me to become a better journalist — and more importantly, a better human being.

I can’t help but wonder what law enforcement in this country would be like of someone like Bill Bratton, commissioner of the New York City Police Department, spoke out about what happened in Louisiana and Minnesota. I can’t help but wonder how much we could learn from the expertise of a man like Raymond Kelly, Bratton’s predecessor.

I understand the Thin Blue Line. I truly do.

But there’s not a question in my mind that silence that befalls all others in law enforcement when things go awry elsewhere is a huge reason why in 2016, black people are still being killed because, well, they’re black.

Here’s something else.

I can’t believe I’m admitting to agreeing with Newt Gingrich, but he put it best last week when he said, and I am paraphrasing here, that white people can and never will understand what it’s like to be a black person in the United States.

He’s definitely right.

Those of us who are white will never know what it feels like to be pulled over, knowing we did nothing wrong on the roadway.

Those of us who are white will never know what it feels like to be questioned by police on the streets simply because of our skin color.

We will never know the absolute fear that overcomes any black person the very second they’re confronted by a cop.

We could never understand that in an instant, as in what happened in Minnesota and Louisiana, that something as simple as being pulled over could lead to our death.

It’s gotten to the point where I want to throw things any time I hear someone, whether in or out of law enforcement, say: “If only they’d just complied.”

The reality is that for most black people, dealing with the police, no matter where they are in the country, could wind up being a matter of life or death.

I don’t suggest this is the case everywhere. I certainly don’t think it’s the case in the communities we at The Observer cover. Yet I can’t help but recall that since I returned to New Jersey in February, every single time I’ve seen a car pulled over, the driver was black.

I’d hardy call that coincidental.

It’s rare that an incident like the one in Dallas leads to change. Yet in the week since the shooting deaths happened, something seems different this time. People who are normally part of the problem — like Gingrich — are looking to be part of the solution.

But what is the solution? Will it ever matter? Will things ever change in our lifetimes? I wish I knew the answer. I hope someone out there has the answer.

And while there’s a good chance someone does, indeed, have the answer, I don’t suspect I’ll be holding my breath waiting for the solution.

May the five officers who lost their lives last week — and the innocent people who lost their lives in Minnesota and Louisiana — rest in peace.

The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the writer. Reach Kevin Canessa Jr. by email at kc@theobserver.com or at either www.facebook.com/kevincanessa or www.twitter.com/kevincanessa.

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Editor & Broadcaster at 

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.