Culture

Meant for friends, Black California cop’s video about racism embraced by police chief


In his cellphone video, the Black man wears a hoodie and a backward baseball cap. Behind him is a placard that reads “Compton.” Somberly, he reflects on the momentous death of George Floyd days before.

“Is this about race or is this about training?” he asks. “I personally believe this may have played out differently if George was not Black. But I believe more that if the crowd around him were not Black, it most certainly would have played out differently.”

Due to “ego and pride,” he surmises, the Minneapolis Police officers involved in Floyd’s death “didn’t want to seem inferior (by) conceding to those around them.”

“They would have taken that as a loss,” he continues. “For that moment in time, they didn’t think about the worst-case scenario and how it would affect their family or their job or even Mr. Floyd.”

After the 10-minute monologue, the video suddenly cuts to the same man – now crisply dressed in a police uniform. A framed photo of a Tustin police car replaces the Compton sign.

He then introduces himself: “I’m Sgt. Robert Nelson.”

The contrast in images might strike some as a lesson in preconceived notions.

Nelson never intended for his video to go beyond his circle of friends and family, much less land on the Tustin Police Department’s social media page. In fact, he wonders aloud if he is breaking protocol by candidly recording his thoughts on racism and police brutality.

“I would love to do this in full uniform,” he tells his viewers. “But because of certain policies, and me sharing my personal opinion, it’s just safer this way.”

But when Tustin Police Chief Stu Greenberg got wind of the video, he not only accepted it, he promoted it.

Greenberg used the video – despite its uncomfortable content – to launch the department’s new online community outreach program, “It Starts With Us.”

“I was completely impressed that Rob was willing to put his neck out there and share, from his own unique perspective, something so important to him,” Greenberg said.

Nelson grew up in Compton, where he still visits his mom frequently. Four years ago, when he was named Tustin Police Department’s “Officer of the Year,” Nelson recalled watching friends join gangs.

“Some of them are still there – and still in gangs,” Nelson said in the 2016 interview. “A lot of my neighborhood friends have died, or they’re in jail.”

Nelson, 34, said he made the video for his “Compton folks” – who, based on both perception and experience, harbor distrust for law enforcement.

“Chief Greenberg texted me, ‘I’m proud of you,’” Nelson said. “I thought, ‘Oh, man.’ I didn’t understand how it got to him so quickly. But he was very complimentary. That means a lot to me.”

High school classmate Craig Woods said that he and Nelson were part of a “core group of friends” who stayed out of trouble by concentrating on education and sports. Even so, Woods said, Nelson – who “always carried himself with old-fashioned, even-keeled dignity” – encountered run-ins with police.

“He was the first of …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

      

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