Interview with Howard Saffold

As a Black officer, what was the reaction of your own community to your being on the force. How, how do you--


As a young Black officer, what, what was the response of the people in your own community to the job choice you made and what you were doing, and what you could do to, to, uh, help in your community?


Initially, just from a personal friend, family perspective, people sort of looked upon it with favor. They said, "Oh, you know, you're finally going to make something out of yourself. You've stopped gangbanging. You've actually joined the ranks of the servers and the protectors." And it was accepted by the, rather positively in the first instance. But, oh, around the '68s, pressure from the Black community begin to be applied to Black officers because police brutality was rampant. I mean, it was not uncommon for Black women who were out after dark to be treated as if they were prostitutes. Black men driving big cars, legitimately, ministers, businesspeople, stopped and searched in, in public as if there was no, no constraints, no distinctions between them and the criminal element. People had begin to ask, you know, "What, what, what are you part of? What is that institution about, really? Are you just pawns? Are you part of the oppressive South African-type army? Are you part of an occupying army?" It was, the peer pressure was beginning to set in, and Black police officers, across the country, were being used to infiltrate civil rights organizations as spies, _et cetera_. So, and then we had some, some, some characters, Black police officers who had reputations that had proceeded me, um, um, that had reputations for being, you know, just absolute brutes. And, so it was like, we had a choice. We had a choice of fitting in to a stigma or challenging an institution that we swore to, to be a part of, and, uh, I think that was the beginning of the turning point when, uh, when, when, when it was just very clear to us that you don't really have a choice at this point, even if you walk away from the job, you're going to have to deal with the institution as a Black man.