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|| Rebecca Wiener spent the afternoon with Sgt. Davis at this home in Newark, New Jersey. |
REBECCA: You founded Black Cops Against Police Brutality in 1991, after working as a cop in East Orange, New Jersey for five years.
DELACY: No one on the force was talking about police brutality until Rodney King was beaten on the streets of L.A. that year. Captain Eric Adams of the NYPD started 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care around the same time we were the trailblazers who brought the issue to the forefront. Communities had always told the stories, but cops had never spoken out. I wanted to stay in the profession and work on the problems from within.
REBECCA: B-CAP works with families whose lives have been affected by police brutality. You help them get media attention, counsel them through court appearances, and educate them on how to diffuse further volatile situations with the police.
DELACY: I get ten to fifteen calls every day from people all over the nation who have been mistreated by law enforcement officials. For many years, I worked with Emma Jones in East Haven, Connecticut to help get her story heard in 1997 her teenage son was shot and killed by a police officer after being pulled over in his car. I consulted with her attorney, and B-CAP hosted a conference with scholars, law enforcement officials, and community members from the tri-state area to debate the case. Despite our efforts, charges were never brought against Malik's killer. Emma Jones still protests on the fourteenth of every month, and wears all white to remind the country that her son was murdered. But we were able to push through the Malik Jones Law in June 1999. It's an anti-racial profiling law that requires police agencies in the state of Connecticut to record the race and ethnicity of every motorist pulled over for traffic violations.
REBECCA: You also lecture and run workshops all across the country.
DELACY: The anchor of B-CAP has always been our community education program. It's called What to Do When Stopped by the Police.” We also teach conflict resolution and run sensitivity trainings for cops. Last week I went to a meeting with the NAACP Youth Council in Elizabeth, New Jersey to discuss how its members could decrease the violence in their streets.
REBECCA: You've really given back to your own community you grew up here in Newark.
DELACY: I was raised by my mother and my grandmother in this very house. I struggled in school because I had a difficult time accepting authority. I went to a Catholic school for four years I was suspended when I was nine. The nuns taught us to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, so when one of them pulled me by the hair and scratched my neck, I responded in kind. Then, in the eighth grade I taught myself to draw and was accepted to Arts High School here in Newark. I switched gears the next year and majored in music, which eventually led me to become a percussionist. In fact, I initially joined the force in 1986 to finance my music career. I used to play with an R&B group on Motown Records called Blaze. In 1990, we toured with Bobby Brown, traveling all over the world.
REBECCA: That makes perfect sense. A lot of what you do public speaking, mentoring centers on public performance. You're really good at using the media to your advantage.
DELACY: I've been blessed with the ability to articulate my ideas clearly, so I've enjoyed the favor of the media. Right now I'm writing a book called The Crisis Action Plan a manual that advises on how to best use the media to respond to police brutality. It lists every attorney general in the country and all the black media resources. The book then tells you, step-by-step, how to publicize your cause how to separate the emotional from the logical when working on a case, and how to use both to your advantage. It tells you how to set up a press conference don't hold it on a Friday or on the weekend, because no one will pay attention and how to establish a relationship with the media. If you do that, reporters will fight for you rather than against you. Men of color have usually been shown in a negative light precisely because of the lack of such relationships with the media.
REBECCA: It's hard to believe you haven't had any training in this.
DELACY: When I first started B-CAP, I only had an undergraduate English degree from Drew University in New Jersey. Then, three years ago, I completed a masters of Administrative Science at Fairleigh Dickinson University. I got my degree in eleven months while working full-time as a cop, as well as coordinating B-CAP. I took a course called Marketing for Non-Profit and Government Organizations.” After the first class, my professor pulled me aside and said, You have more media experience than I do. Would you mind teaching that part of the curriculum?” So I did. But before that I didn't have any formal training in media or marketing. I've just learned a lot from experience.
REBECCA: You're also the Executive Director of the East Orange, New Jersey chapter of the Police Athletic League.
DELACY: Yes. PAL is a collaboration between police volunteers and community groups there are chapters all around the country. We teach a lot of sports that instill discipline football, cheerleading, boxing, basketball, and even table tennis. We also host mentoring programs, cultural trips, and some unique programs designed by the young people themselves. Last year, for instance, the kids decided they wanted to have a weekly after-school dance.
REBECCA: PAL is a pretty traditional police outreach program. How did you get involved?
DELACY: The East Orange chapter was started five years ago by the Chief of Police, Richard Wright, who is white. I mention his race because East Orange is the blackest city in New Jersey. Most of the elected officials are black, and most of the community is black, Latino, or Caribbean. But the police chief was an ultra-conservative Caucasian male. He came to me and said, "You're one of the loudest critics of the police force that I've ever met. I'm giving you a chance to put your money where your mouth is. In two weeks you're going to be assigned to the Community Services Unit. I want you to restructure the unit to provide better resources and classes, and I want you to establish relationships with the whole community, especially with those people who hate the police. Don't embarrass me."
REBECCA: That was quite a challenge.
DELACY: It scared me to death. I didn't know what to expect. He was a conservative Caucasian male and I was a liberal African-American male, but we saw eye-to-eye on one point children should be the focus of the effort to change the conditions of urban America. In the five years since we started the East Orange PAL chapter, it has grown from seven programs serving one-hundred-and-fifty children to thirty-three programs serving twenty-six hundred children. In that same time period, East Orange has seen a fifty-one percent reduction in juvenile crime.
REBECCA: You also teach a public speaking class with PAL.
DELACY: For three years I've been teaching a program called Stand and Deliver. I think public speaking is perhaps the most important skill to teach young people. A child resorts to force when he can't effectively communicate his ideas. If his tongue is his weapon then he doesn't have to pick up a knife.
REBECCA: You've been an outspoken advocate for rehabilitating rather than punishing young criminals. The most highly publicized case with which you've been involved was that of Lionel Tate, who was convicted of killing a six-year-old girl in 1999.
DELACY: At twelve years old, Lionel was the youngest person in the United States to be sentenced to life without parole. The Tate family brought me in as a consultant. In 2003, his family and I even went to the Vatican to meet with Pope John Paul II on his behalf. After five years fighting for his parole, we finally walked him out of jail on January 24, 2004.
REBECCA: There is an increasing tendency within the US to charge minors who commit crimes as adults.
DELACY:We have no problem waiving children into adult status sentencing them to life in prison for acts committed at twelve years of age. But if we're going to hold them to adult standards of responsibility, we should also give them adult opportunities. Lowering the voting age would be a concrete step towards engaging young people in the political process earlier. They have to be able to see how the world is affected by their decisions. And we have to recognize what they are capable of.
REBECCA: Even so, programs like PAL are routinely under-funded and subject to budget cuts.
DELACY: We really need to focus on minority youth development. Right now the only way out of the hood is a life of crime, or the faraway dream of being paid millions of dollars to bounce or hit a ball. My Irish, Italian, and Latino colleagues embrace their heritage, and rightfully so. But African-American children have been disconnected from their heritage. They turn to gangs because they are looking to belong somewhere. African-Americans are a lost people in America. I'm not blaming anyone I'm just acknowledging what the landscape looks like.
REBECCA: In 1994 you took twenty-six kids from PAL on a trip to Ghana, West Africa.
DELACY: I was invited as a guest speaker for Panafest, an event organized by the government of Ghana to encourage unity between Africans in Africa and those scattered by the diaspora. My life changed forever when I touched African soil. On that visit I came into contact with a rich culture and tradition that has fueled me ever since. I've been able to share that with the young people with whom I work. But talking about Africa that way scares people including adults of color in positions in power.
REBECCA: How do your fellow cops feel about your work with B-CAP?
DELACY: My involvement with B-CAP has never sat comfortably with the police department. It's an insular culture a closed shop. The police force can offer cops a strong support system, and a sense of camaraderie and unity. I loved it when I first started. But if you decide to speak out against what you feel is wrong, those benefits are no longer available to you. I've been kicked out of the union for saying this in the past, but I'll say it again the culture of law enforcement is white-male dominated, racist, sexist, and homophobic. Of course my colleagues are uncomfortable with B-CAP here is an organization of black police officers that aligns itself with the local community and has the nerve to call itself Black Cops Against Police Brutality. Recently, the police department even moved PAL out of the East Orange office we shared. Then, a few months later, I was put on the midnight shift. But I realize why the department decided to move me I don't fit the mold. And I never will. I'm not just a cop. Policing is what I do, not who I am.