“Last summer there were a lot of people in the community that were trying to have these conversations with local authorities and elected officials and they quickly derailed. I was always disappointed with myself that I at least wasn’t there to bear witness to what was going on. I think, if nothing else, it’s really important to be there. It’s important that people take advantage of opportunities to have these difficult community conversations and to make themselves present because these are issues that affect us all. Even if they affect us differently, they certainly affect all of us.
In particular with Dominique (White), I happen to know some relatives of his and my heart just broke for his family. And when he was murdered on September 28th until when there was a subsequent protest on TPD in November, I think I was just sitting back and waiting for something to happen, waiting for something to be done, so when I found out that there would be a protest at the police department, I remember having a lot of difficult emotions that morning. I remember holding my daughter before I took her into daycare and just crying and thinking like of how scared I was, of how afraid I felt to speak up in that moment, but I also knew that I was alive, in full capacity and that I had the privilege of making a choice, that I could choose to engage in that moment and be a part of what was happening, or I could not. I chose to engage and it wasn’t nearly as much as a sacrifice at that point, thinking about what happened to Dominique.”
“Have you had any personal encounters with police officers?”
“Too many to count. I think a lot of people are aware about the first time I was stopped by the police when I moved here. I was 10-years-old, in front of my neighborhood grocery store. But I think that a lot of people don’t understand is that I’ve spent the next 15 years pretty regularly harassed by the Topeka Police Department.
Just one example: I offered to give a ride home to two high school friends of mine. A young man and a young lady. The young lady was 15. Around first or second at Fillmore there used to be a newspaper dispenser for the Capital Journal, so I saw it and happened to hop out, grab a paper and keep going. I think someone in the neighborhood alerted the police officer who was canvassing the neighborhood of what they had seen, so that officer and others began to follow me. I pulled over at Ward Meade Park and asked them why they pulled me over and they said that there had been a lot of prostitution in the neighborhood. Mind you, this was on a Tuesday at 4 in the afternoon, because I had just picked up my`friends from Topeka High. What an insult to all of us, but especially to this young lady. Clearly these were school children. They both had their backpacks.
So, we go around and around and I told them that I wasn’t going to give them consent to search my vehicle. That was a big tactic back then with TPD. It was to wear you down until you gave consent to search your vehicle and so they were probably expecting to find a bag of quarters from the newspaper dispenser or something. They kept saying, “Well, if you’ve done nothing wrong, then why wouldn’t you give consent?” And I told them, “I don’t have to. I don’t owe you that. I haven’t done anything wrong.” And so, that’s just an example. And that’s the sad part. The frustrating part is that when I’ve tried to explain this to friends and family over the years, they would say, “Well, what did you do? Why were you anxious?” And that’s what for me shows the disparity of experiences between what certain people experience when they’re engaged by police officers and what others like me experience.
Just because you’ve never had a reason to feel anxious around law enforcement, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t.”