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By Nehemiah D. Frank
Rooted in Slavery
Fact, policing is rooted in slavery. In a Department of Justice study, researchers indicate that policing was initially started: “to control certain populations such as slaves or recent immigrants.”
Shortly after the emancipation of enslaved people and America’s Civil War, the American Police force along with its prison system blossomed as African-Americans and migrants were rounded up and placed in prison for petty, non-violent crimes.
British Policing vs. U.S. Policing
The report mentions that there are two key differences distinguishing how Great Britain and the U.S. police their citizens:
1st Key Difference
- U.S. police officers carry guns
– giving them a very definite power over the average citizen
- British police officers do not carry guns
2nd Key Difference
- British police serve under precinct captains
“These differences set the stage for future problems in what has been called the Political Era of Policing,” according to the Department of Justice 2007 report.
Nothing Has Changed
“The Political Era of Policing was marked by corrupt behavior on the part of the police, including police brutality. Police ruled largely by [physical use of force or intimidation to obtain compliance]. Controlling industrial and race riots became the central focus of many urban police departments. “Shoot first, ask questions later” was widely seen as the primary operating mode of law enforcement, especially on the western frontier. Graft and corruption were abundant. Many Americans did not trust the police who were seen as in the pockets of big-city political machines.” –
During the 1921 Tulsa Massacre or the Tulsa African-American Pogrom of 1921, widely known as the 1921 Tulsa Race “Riot,” the Tulsa Police Department did nothing to help Tulsa’s African-American citizens during what has been academically described as a black holocaust.
[Authors Note – We at the BWST think it’s important to note that the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture does not recognize the 1921 Tulsa Massacre as a riot and we still speculate why Okla. U.S. Sen. Lankford continues to refer to this horrific tragedy in Oklahoma History as a “riot.”]
During The Massacre, TPD did nothing to protect its African-American citizens; instead, Tulsa police officers began arming white men with guns to protect their own white property or personal well-being but also in an insidious way – to ignite a “riot” on black Tulsans. The Tulsa police officers knew, as a result of the allegations placed on Dick Rowland, that by arming angry white-male citizens with guns that they would use this opportunity to ransack black property and murder their city’s black residents.
“An unfounded rumor that a trainload of African men from Muskogee was on the way to reinforce their brothers in Tulsa caused Sheriff McCullough to block and turn back one train, fearing an ambush by an angry mob of armed whites (H. B. Johnson; Black Wall Street, pg.46)
An eyewitness account by a survivor told an account of African-American corpses being loaded onto trains and sent out of the city.
“While some blamed outside “Negro agitators” like Dr. Du Bois for the Riot, more objective voices laid blame squarely at the feet of the locals. Maurice Willows and his American Red Cross contingent, having come to Tulsa from St. Louis, concluded after a thorough consideration that lack of law enforcement was the cause-in-chief of “the short-lived civil war which turned Tulsa, Oklahoma, into a bedlam on the morning of June 1, 1921 (H. B. Johnson; Black Wall Street, pg.52).”
When Civil Rights Leader Rev. Al Sharpton came to Tulsa to inspire civic engagement in the form of peaceful protest against police brutality days before the Betty Shelby trail, racist white Tulsans voiced their disapproval of this modern day civil rights icon calling him a “racist instigator” which is tantamount to “Negro agitator.”
Today, the majority of the bad police officers continue to get away with assaulting, harassing, degrading, taunting, and even murdering their black citizens. The “Shoot first, ask questions later” remains the de facto practice in the Tulsa Police Department, and its pathology can be traced back to what occurred during the 1921 Tulsa Massacre. Evidently, when bad cops commit crimes the majority of cops stand silent or even worse they protect their own, which was evident during the Shelby Trial.
“Museum curator Paul Gardullo, who has spent five years along with Franklin collecting artifacts from the riot and the aftermath, says: “’It was the frustration of poor whites not knowing what to do with a successful black community, and in coalition with the city government were given permission to do what they did.’”
In 2013, Chief Chuck Jordan apologized on behalf of the Tulsa Police Department, saying
“I have heard things said like, ‘Well, that was a different time.’ That excuse does not hold water with me. I have been a Tulsa police officer since 1969, and I have witnessed scores of ‘different times.’ Not once did I ever consider that those changing times somehow relieved me of my obligation to uphold my oath of office and to protect my fellow Tulsans.”
But what about justice for those individuals who were senselessly murdered by cops, cops who allegedly “feared for their life” thus they chose to shoot non-violent citizens? Where was the apology to those victims’ families?
Because to offer an apology is to admit to guilt. And in this case, Chief Jordan either felt pressured to apologize for his institution’s past crimes and or was given legal counsel that there would be no legal ramifications for him or the City of Tulsa if he were to render an apology to the city’s African-American community. Yet! Today, Chief Jordan offers no apology to the Crutcher Family for the death of Terence, no apology for the corruption that took four trials to give the Lake family justice, and no apology for his insensitive remarks disregarding the Tulsa World’s report on how TPD treats the city’s African-American residents different from its white constituents. To the African-American community, a no apology exemplify that Chief Jordan doesn’t see a problem with how his police department is negatively policing its African American citizens. On account of that, African Americans in Tulsa have little to no confidence in Chief Jordan’s leadership to bridge the divide between Tulsa’s African-American community and the city’s police department.
Jordan has mentioned in the past that Tulsa needs more African-American police officers on the force. Yet today, rumors are floating that African-American police officers are receiving racially micro-aggressive harassments on a weekly base: some are fired for pettiness or placed on restrictive duty.
A Pew Research Center study indicated that African Americans are two-thirds less likely to trust the police than their white counterparts.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the Founder & Editor in Chief of the Black Wall St. Times. Frank is also the Co-Producer of “Black Coffee” and Co-Producer of the “Dominic Durant Sports Show.” He graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL in General Studies, and earned a 2nd degree in Political Science from Oklahoma State University. Frank is a middle school History and English teacher, a writer for Education Post, and has been nationally recognized for his activism work on NBC and Blavity. Nehemiah dedicates most of his time to empowering and uplifting his community and was recently awarded as a Terence Crutcher Foundation Honoree.