Op-ed Re: First Responder Misconduct


[Editor’s note: this is a living document, and will remain in progress until Jan. 1, 2017. Enjoy!]


Dark Skin – A Mobility Impediment is an op-ed penned by D’Real Graham, a program manager based in Ypsilanti, MI. On the early morning of November 30, D’Real was stopped and frisked by an YPD officer after entering a crime scene not properly secured. The op-ed gives readers another example of first responder malpractice, and encourages public safety leadership to reimagine community.


Intended for readers with concerns who wish to further their knowledge of black disenfranchisement and its relationship with a range of systemic oppressions. To develop a knowledge of the broad implications of first responder misconduct, and the lack of thorough interpretation and analysis in relation to trans-generational trauma and procedural justice.

This op-ed explores the impact of racial profiling across first responder practices in communities in America. It is centered around punitive practices which introduces readers to some of the main debates in current policing theory, through exploration of an encounter that occurred in Ypsilanti, MI. It explores theories and practices of policing, from for-profit to natural surveillance through law enforcement misconduct and experiences shared by persons of color including black folk in colonized, apartheid communities.

Reflection Notes

On November 30, 2016 I, D’Real an avid walker, was stopped and frisked in Normal Park by an YPD officer.

I’ve addressed the Mayor of Ypsilanti and City Council at the City Hall chambers. Remarks were published online to document the unfortunate event. I’m disappointed. Since the encounter, the YPD Chief has reduced the contact as “standard protocol” and “the agency’s best.” If the YPD is “a visible expression of the community’s desire for law, order and improvement of the quality of life in the City of Ypsilanti,” then it’s important for us to view invisible violence on a spectrum.

Federal, State, and local laws give first responders, especially law enforcement the charge to “control, reduce and prevent crime, as well as the fear and perception of crime, law enforcement has an important role in determining the quality of life in a community.”

According to the Ypsilanti Police Department, “If inroads are to be made, law enforcement must join together with the community in a participatory effort directed towards those ends.” The aforementioned is a moot statement. Not only am I committed to depositing community good-will with anti-oppression collectives, I have campaigned for procedural justice in public, and advocated for a county-wide political education. Good, racist people[1] recognize persons of color that participate and remain in community, right?

Wrong. I was processed by an YPD officer, another officer disconnected from community —without legal reasoning for suspicion. Handling credentials made available alone should have absolved my connection to the ongoing “investigation.” Remember law enforcement agencies are charged to control the fear and perception of crime. Public safety is compromised if field officers are unable to recognize community residents.

In 1936, I would have had to lean on a hardcopy of The Negro Motorist Green Book in addition to street smarts to negotiate my citizenship while in commute. Sam Sinyangwe, a black data scientist based in New York tweets about how first responder misconduct infringes upon the quality of life of black Americans on his timeline everyday. Black skin remains to be a mobility impediment for roadtrippers, educators, performing artists, thought leaders, and every day black folk in settler colonial communities every twenty-eight hours.

Freedom papers, autobiographies, inventions, assimilation, rejection, tweets, op-eds. What else do we need on our person to secure our autonomy and agency?

“The abuse of stop and frisk is a violation of individual rights, but it also poisons police and community relations. As recognized by the Department of Justice, the “experience of disproportionately being subjected to stops and arrests in violation of the Fourth Amendment shapes black residents’ interactions with the [the police], to the detriment of community trust,” and “makes the job of delivering police services … more dangerous and less effective.”[2]

Invisible violence takes all shapes and forms in abusive relationships. Abusers wield force often resulting in physical, emotional, or psychological injury. “Encounters” have left everyday persons of color, black and brown bodies entangled in trees, and misreported to the medical examiner.

Web Search: Op-ed First Responder Misconduct

1 The Good, Racist People by Ta-Nehisi Coates, March 2013
2 Stop and Frisk in Chicago by the ACLU of Illinois, March 2015