Law & Order

Black Cop Gives Straight Talk On George Floyd, Racism In American Policing

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Kennewick Police Officer James Canada shared his feelings and observations regarding George Floyd and current events.

Kennewick, WA – An African American 17-year veteran of law enforcement shared his thoughts on social media about the current state of affairs surrounding 46-year-old George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, and what he thinks need to happen to make a real change.

Kennewick Police Officer James Canada, who is also known in the local community as “Coach Canada” by the varsity football players at Pasco High School, became a police officer after he experienced racism at the hands of police when he was a college student.

Officer Canada, who has a supportive wife with whom he is raising five children, has dedicated his life to protecting, serving, and bettering his community.

The officer has coached young football players in Kennewick in a professional and volunteer capacity for 15 years.

During his career, Officer Canada spent seven years as a Kennewick school resource officer. Now that he’s back on patrol, he continues to visit 5th Grade classrooms as a DARE officer.

Blue Lives Matter got permission to reprint Officer Canada’s message in its entirety.

“I have not said anything about what is going on but today I decided to share my thoughts, feelings and opinion. There will no doubt be some that agree and disagree, but this is my experience.

First and foremost, I am a proud African American male from Tacoma, WA. I grew up in Hilltop Tacoma and was raised by parents and grandparents that told me about the evils of race. I heard stories from them about growing up in Texas, and having evil and cruel things said and done to them because of the color of their skin. My grandfather served in the Army in WWII in an all black regime, and fought for this country. He did two European tours which he never really talked about. It is now that I understand why he did not talk about it much.

I can remember him telling me that I need to, no matter what, treat people with respect. He said some people are not going to like you because of the color of your skin. My grandfather, after moving to Tacoma after WWII, was one of the first African American males that worked for the City of Tacoma in the Water Department.

I graduated High School and I was fortunate enough to leave Tacoma and play College Football at Walla Walla Community College in 1994 and 1995.

If you’re wondering why I am telling you this, it’s because this is where I saw firsthand how the color of my skin mattered. Now it was the first time I was really away from home. I finished my freshman year, and I stayed in Walla Walla through the summer. I worked at the McDonald’s on Issacs street, where I closed. It was usually late night when I would walk from McDonalds to where I lived at the time.

One night as I was walking home after closing, I was stopped by a couple of police officers. I was asked what I was doing, and in typical 19 year old fashion, I pointed to my work shirt and name tag and said I was walking home from work. I know I was not as respectful as I was taught, but I learned that night that it did not matter. I also told them that I played for the CC and I was going to summer school and working before the season got started. I was told to shut up and to watch myself. I was called “boy” and “you people” making a reference to black football players coming into their town.

I was told to walk over to their car, and they were kind of in an alley way. I was led to the rear of the car where they proceeded to issue some local justice and roughed me up. Then they told me they better not catch me out again causing trouble. I was irate, did that really just happen? Did me being a young black man walking at night pose a threat?

I never really shared that story with many people because right after the season, I went back to Tacoma and really did not speak about it again. I dropped out of school, got a couple of jobs, had my daughter, and was trying to provide as best I could.

I decided that I needed to go back to school and I wanted to play football again. I ended up going to Central Washington University and walked on to the team. This was a great experience and one I will always cherish. It was at Central where I decided on my career path.

I was a junior and I had to declare my major, I wanted to be a teacher and a coach but I did not have the grades to be accepted into the Education Department at the time. I decided to enroll in the Law and Justice Program. I had classes that were interesting to me, and one of my part time professors was an Ellensburg Police Officer. The classes I took from him really made me think I could make a difference as an Officer.

I remembered my Walla Walla experience, and I thought what better way to have an impact than to be the change, talk to young people and give them real talk, and change people’s minds on Police Officers and Black Police Officers.

So, I set out to become a Police Officer and graduated in 2001. In 2003, I became a Police Officer in West Richland. I was the first Black Fulltime Police Officer, and I did not experience too much racism. After 2 years, I transferred to the Kennewick Police Department where I still work to this day.

I was the first Black Officer for the City of Kennewick, and during my time, I have experienced racism. There have been times people did not want to make reports to me because of the color of my skin. I have had doors slammed in my face because of the color of my skin, and have been called all kinds of names because of the color of my skin. I had co-workers who had not had a lot of experience being around people of color. I thought to myself, “How can I make a difference?” I can go to work, treat people fairly, change or try to change people’s perception of not only Police Officers but black Police Officers.

I am very PROUD of my job, and the effect I believe I have had in my community and department. I have seen things that very few people have and, in this job, we are the kings of taking risks and making split second decisions that are looked at with A LOT of scrutiny by the community, the media, and ALL of America. I and many brave men and women; Black, White, Hispanic and Asian, have made the decision to become Police Officers, and with that come the expectations to Protect and Serve, which I believe the vast majority of us do.

Now I have, like the rest of America, seen and lived the unfortunate times where people have lost their lives and experienced racism with the most recent being George Floyd. While I am an Officer, what happened was not right and uncalled for. George Floyd was murdered. I am not going to get into a rage of words because I believe that the Justice System will prevail in this particular case, and all of those Officers will be held accountable to the highest extent of the law. We need to allow that justice to take place. I agree with peaceful protest but the looting, rioting and destruction of property is uncalled for. I have watched videos of people saying Martin Luther King did not work and we need Malcom X. I do not believe change begins with violence and anger. Change begins when we protest peacefully and step up to make changes. Violence is only going to ensure that things do not change but stay the same or get worse.

There is a large number of Officers, no matter their race, that go to work every day. They get called names, get spit at, get attacked and disrespected, but do their jobs with dignity and respect for the people we swore to protect. There are a handful of Officers that have and do wrong. That does not mean that EVERY OFFICER is BAD or EVERY OFFICER is Racist. The ones who choose to be that way will get exposed. We also, as Officers, need to hold ourselves and our co-workers accountable when we see injustices, while also continuing to do the GOOD that we do everyday.

This is where I will garner a lot of mixed results, but I believe, we as a Society, are failing our children. When I was growing up, I was taught to respect authority, my elders, my parents, teachers and treat people of all colors equally. I was disciplined and not just by my parents. My grandparents, aunts, uncles, older cousins and other family would all assist in the discipline when I did something wrong.

I would never talk to my parents or elders the way I have seen young people today talk to their parents and anyone else they perceive to be disrespecting them. WE want to blame others for how our young people are being treated when part of the blame is how they were not taught to respect their elders, parents, authority. If they did, that respect they are looking for will be shown back to them.

I understand the frustration that people, in particular African Americans, feel. I have experienced it, but I decided to try and be part of a solution rather than perpetuate the problem. Rioting, looting and destroying businesses are only going to make things worse in our communities, and will strain relations with the police and within our communities. We need to have talks and try to better the relations. We need more people of color as Officers, so we can show the upcoming generations that its okay to be an Officer while still being true to our race and treating all people with respect.
I do worry for my own sons, but I still raise them the way I was raised. I trust that our America will truly be the land of the free and the home of the brave regardless of Race, Creed, Color and sexuality.

I realize that Social Media and the News use the negative to drive people to violence, and perpetuate the fear and the mistrust in the police. I see how it instills the doubt that there are any good Officers out there.

We need to all treat each other like we want to be treated. The Golden Rule as my parents taught it to me. I have learned through my job and experiences that enacting change starts with ourselves, I pray that we all look within ourselves and ask, “What am I doing to make a change?”

Lastly, I want to say that Policing today is far better than it used to be. We are constantly getting training on community policing, using different techniques to deescalate situations, and how to talk to and deal with all people in every social category; mental health, on drugs, intoxicated, gender specific and non gender specific.

People, we are adapting and daily trying to make our communities better places. Times like these make it seem like the police do not have training.”

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