NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — With the national discussion focused on racial justice and police reform, some black police officers are opening up about balancing their personal and professional lives.
As Black Lives Matter protesters continue to fill our nation’s streets, police officers remain on the sidelines but also in the spotlight of the sometimes tense rallies.
“I’d be lying if I would say I don’t get emotional and I don’t get frustrated and I don’t get upset. I do,” said Det. Fredrick Cook with the Montclair Police Department.
For so many black officers, including Cook, recent incidents involving the black community and police have been heartbreaking to learn of but not surprising.
The 10-year veteran of the Montclair Police Department is torn.
He loves his job more than anything but knows change is necessary for police departments everywhere.
“People kind of try to separate the two, you know, being a black male and a police officer, but I don’t think you can. I mean, I am a black male that is a police officer, so those issues I still have, you know, I still see, I still carry with me,” Cook told CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon. “But yeah, you can’t paint everyone with one single brush. You know, I don’t, I don’t believe in that either.”
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His wife, Stephany Cook, is also conflicted, especially as the mother of two black children.
“Do you feel torn?” Dhillon asked.
“At times I do,” she said. “I believe in police, but I am fully against police brutality. I’m fully, you know, for doing the right thing.”
Det. Felicia Richards agrees.
“George Floyd, that was a shock,” she said. “Breonna Taylor, that just made me sad.”
A 34-year veteran of the NYPD, she is also the president of the Guardians Association, a group that represents more than 1,000 black members of the force.
“My job is to protect and serve when I put the uniform on. For me as a black woman, I have to live vicariously through other black women that are able to be in that march. If I was retired, I probably would be in that because this is, this is history,” Richards said.
Both detectives say while the last few weeks have been challenging for everyone involved, they are in full support of the Black Lives Matter movement and they hope it leads to real positive change for police departments across the country.
Edwards and Cook say the best way to target racism in the ranks is by hiring more minorities, increasing racially sensitive training and by members holding each other to account.
In the meantime, both say they became officers to help build a bridge between the black community and police.
They remain committed to that mission now more than ever.
“Our job is to make sure that cooler heads prevail and to make sure that our people just stay focused … This change, it was inevitable,” Edwards said.
“Help build that gap between the police and the community. But I know it’s hard and we got a long way to go,” Cook said.
Both say they’ll continue to support their colleagues in blue while remaining true to their community.