Miguel Coppedge (center) and MPD Officers Natali Thomas and Kip Coleman, whose friends and helped to inspire the story "Friendly Officers" by Coppedge. (Photo by Yolanda Coppedge)
Miguel Coppedge (center) and MPD Officers Natali Thomas and Kip Coleman, whose friends and helped to inspire the story "Friendly Officers" by Coppedge. (Photo by Yolanda Coppedge)

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There is a knowledge that both good and bad police officers exist, but how does one distinguish between the two?

In light of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police officers, the profession hasn’t exactly been viewed in the most positive light in recent months. Those unsettling incidents have caused some to wonder if they or a loved one will be the next victim of police brutality.

“I’m scared for my sister, my Black brothers, my uncles, or my father even more than for myself,” said Daniel Williams when asked how he feels about police brutality as a Black man in America. “What can you do? I feel helpless, but I’m in a ‘never fold’ mindset. In the beginning, I was scared. Now, I’m just aware and cautious.”

But some law enforcement officials say they are working hard to show their trustworthiness in the wake of the incidents.

“Good cops are transparent and reassure you that everything is going to be OK. They will go longer than their actual service code,” said Kip Coleman, a Metropolitan Police officer in Ward 8. “Bad cops make bad discussions with attitude. They come to work with their own agenda. If you can’t get along with people, you shouldn’t be a police officer. You get tired as an officer, but that’s when you take yourself on a vacation and get the necessary breaks. Cops need an outlet too.”

The occupation isn’t everyone’s calling. Becoming one shouldn’t be a last-ditch career option — one must be built for it.

“You have to be a people person. You have to be a part of the community. You’re not just patrolling for crime,” Coleman said. “It’s not just on when you’re on the clock. Be a coach, read a book or something. Get out the scout car and interact with the people from youth to seniors.

“We have to get the trust back of the community,” he said. “I work in the city that I grew up in, so this is home. I know the neighborhood and they know me. I want to be aware of what’s going on in my community.”

Coleman, who said he loves go-go music and dancing, began policing in 1990 and retired in 2007. He then transitioned into teaching, which ultimately led him to return to the force as an active-duty officer.

“I like servicing the community,” he said. “I love doing things with the kids. I wish it wasn’t a pandemic right now. I would take the kids in the neighborhood to the pool.”

The coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing social distancing measures to combat it has splintered communities and neighborhoods in more ways than one, and police officers say they play a role in the healing process, particularly during such tragedies as the fatal shooting of 11-year-old Davon McNeal in Southeast over the July Fourth weekend.

“I took the time to go to the candlelight vigil. I saw other retired officers there also,” Coleman said while acknowledging that he is a parent and can empathize with a mother who has lost a son. “It hurts. Children don’t deserve that. There are times when you need the police and times when you don’t. When you have violent situations happen, you need the police.”

Meanwhile, young author Miguel Coppedge has written several books about law enforcement and firefighters in the community and has taken the time to build a relationship with the service members of the community for the past four years.

“I have played basketball with the recruits. I have done gaming events with the police,” Miguel said. “I was taught to obey the law and law enforcement. Trusting them allows for me to do that.”

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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