Updated: Dec 13, 2021
Tired of Waiting for Change
Shanette Hall, Ethical Society of Police (E.S.O.P)
Shanette Hall is the 2nd Vice President of the Ethical Society of Police (E.S.O.P) based out of St. Louis, MO. Shanette grew up in a law enforcement family and discussed her take on fighting racism in policing and how the Ethical Society of Police cultivates and maintains police/community relations, increases diversity within the police department, and champions accountability and professionalism in law enforcement.
The presentation opened with introductions by Terry L. Watson, Founder of Strategies for Justice and the host of Moses' People Speak. Prior to the discussion, Mr. Watson wanted to bring attention to a couple of newsworthy items, the movie, “The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain," which is now in movie theaters and on HBO Max, a must-see. Also, the four Black female sergeants who are filing lawsuits in Baltimore, Maryland known as the Baltimore 4. "Our guest today, who is from St. Louis, Missouri will bring a more detailed understanding to those of you who are not familiar with the situation in Maryland," Mr. Watson said. Four Black female police sergeants filed separate lawsuits against the City of Baltimore Police Department each seeking 10 million dollars in damages alleging sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and retaliation.” The officers provided traumatic details of their experiences within the department. They said they were in fear of their brothers and sisters in bue.
Watch this short video:
Dionna Maria Lewis, Esq. asked "At what point will the Baltimore Police Department self-monitor against the department's own known complicit, insidious and institutional culture of sex and race-based discrimination demanding change and accountability." Sergeant Danika Yampierre said the hostile work environment resulted in the premature birth of her baby causing her to deliver her baby on the sidewalk without any professional help, in 30-degree weather.; Sergeant Jasmin Rowlett alleges a White officer sexually harassed her and after she complained, she reported co-workers humiliated her. She gave the example of having toy rats placed on her desk throughout the department in an effort to intimidate her. "I have been called a snitch after these investigations have been leaked through the department." Sergeant Welai Grant reported a co-worker for using the N-word against a police applicant. Sergeant Tashawna Gaines left the agency and tried to return to her old rank with the support of the Equal Opportunity Commission, but says she was denied.
Join Moses' People Speak as we speak with the Baltimore 4.
After the showing of the video of the Baltimore 4, Ms. Hall was asked to tell the viewers a little about herself and the Ethical Society of Police. She went on to explain that the Ethical Society of Police (E.S.O.P) is an association that was founded by African-American officers in the St. Louis Police Department and was formalized in 1972. The racial unjust during the civil rights movement in the 1960s prompted the NAACP to cry out and demand the presence of more African-American police officers in departments across the country; at the time, these departments were majority White males. African-Americans entering the police force were being denied promotions and getting into specialized units. The St. Louis police officers formed the St. Louis Police Officers Association, which was majority White male-dominated. The forming of this association prompted the formation of the E.S.O.P, which is one of the few organizations that address racism at any cost.
Ms. Hall was asked, “When you watched the video, when you hear those stories, what are some of the first things that come to mind?” She responded quite eloquently by addressing first, what a pleasure it was meeting them, and then addressing their pain and suffering in telling their stories. And, what amazed her was the vulnerability in these women telling the world what they had experienced within their departments, and being accused of lying. Ms. Hall admired their strength and tenacity to speak the truth and was at a loss for words. She had to sit down and “soak in” what she was hearing.
Mr. Watson made mention regarding a conversation he was having about diversifying police departments across the country and after hearing stories like the sergeants from Maryland, and the 10 officers out of DC, he stated, “I know how important it is to diversify the police. Again, the whole platform that Strategies for Justice is about diversifying the police, but now I’m a little bit more cautious in trying to bring a diverse police force if they're entering into an environment that's going to really challenge their mental health.”
The conversation continued regarding diversifying police departments, which prompted another conversation about Shanette’s father. She explained how her father was her best friend; "he was the best man who ever lived and I had known.” Shanette’s father had a long career in law enforcement; he was known as an equity referee. She remembered her father using the phrase, “It’s not the law and order; it’s the law and re-order.” While serving as a Juvenile Detective for the St. Louis Police Department where he later retired, Shanette remembered, while in high school, a classmate mentioned to her how her father really helped him out. He apparently had committed an illegal act that could have put him in the system, but instead, Shanette’s father chose not to ruin the young man’s life and gave him another chance. Her father didn’t believe in getting young kids caught up in the system, or anyone for that matter, because of a mistake made. He felt that everyone deserved another chance. That incident was the decision-maker for Shanette; she wanted to be exactly the person her father was and became a police officer.
Mr. Watson recalled narratives about his great grandfather and great uncle. In their interviews given, they recalled how Black citizens for the first time said they felt how policing should be in their interactions with them. “There are these soft people skills in that case, and again, to me; that’s a huge legacy to leave behind.”
The discussion went on to cover how difficult it is for African-Americans to get into law enforcement, (i.e., the application process with questions that automatically disqualify them; questions regarding their ethnicity; whether they have ever been evicted; how many citations have they received; and, how many times have they been detained?) These are some of the issues that prohibit African-Americans from being that “equity referee.”
There were a number of additional issues discussed, namely ways in which police departments could increase their cultural competencies and gender equality within law enforcement. The number of lawsuits where Black female police officers are stepping up and speaking out, as opposed to their male counterparts “waiting until later” to speak up and defend female officers in their time of need, was highlighted as well.
Nearing the end of the discussion, Mr. Watson asked Ms. Hall, “What do you want policing to look like in the 21at Century?” Her response created a bit of a chuckle as she stated, “Everything it doesn’t look like now! I’m one of those people that says, we need to rewrite the constitution, so that isn’t a good question for me.” On a serious note, she discussed the necessity of creating standards across the board, (e.g., police academies need to lengthen their training, there should be a mandate for community service within the academy training, and there was also the mention of a mandated countrywide reporting system used for police misconduct and use-of-force.) Also, the necessity of whistleblowing classes is needed as far as what it really means to be a whistleblower and the aftermath of consequences.
At end of each guest speaker’s discussion, Mr. Watson always asked this question, “What is your message to America?”
“That's interesting because as you asked me what is my message for America, my first response is to be well, which America are we talking about? Because the America that people like me have to experience is much different than the America that is put in our books; the America that's painted on different murals; the America that even some of our neighboring countries think of when they see us. So, what is next for America for me, for people that look like me? The best advice is at some point there is going to have to be a President that is going to be an equity referee at some point. I don't believe that we've truly had one yet. So many people are suffering and dying and not because of their own actions, or their own things that they are doing or not doing, but our system is designed for many people like me to fail. Whenever we see these large issues, whether it be poverty, crime, lack of health care, and lack of access to adequate education that is an absolute failure in government; very little has anything to do with the person itself. It's a failure in government. So, the message to ‘the America’ that I am a part of, the America that I see all the time, is do better because you haven't done anything. You haven't done very much for us to be that equity referee. And, the message to the other America; the America that we see in our books; the America that we see painted; the America that you think of when you see the American flag; you still haven’t done anything yet. You are the reason why we are in these situations that we are seeing played out right now. You are the immoral monsters that have caused this chaos that we are seeing right now. You are the reason why we have people asking when Jesus is coming back. You are the reason why people are crying in the streets; you're that reason, so to that America once again, do better because we're here only because of you.”
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About the author
Elinor A. McNeel, currently retired after a lengthy career as a Legal Assistant, decided to return to school and is presently attending Penn State University completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Law and Society. She enjoys reading a good book, writing, editing, and anything involving technology. Elinor is a published author of Understanding Rhetoric: A Student Guide with Samples and Analysis. Originally from Chicago, Ill, her family relocated to Los Angeles, California where she presently resides.