Black and Blue: Talking with African-American CMPD officers - | WBTV Charlotte

Black and Blue: Talking with African-American CMPD officers

(Molly Grantham | WBTV) (Molly Grantham | WBTV)

We all watched in September as our city was torn apart. Protesters, mostly African American, were angry with police and, in some moments, especially angry with African American police officers. There were multiple reports of protesters up in faces of the officers, calling them “Uncle Tom.”

“I think we’ve all been in that situation at some point,” Officer Ray Hughes, a 25-year veteran of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD), said. “Being a black officer, you’re sort of like in the middle. You understand their pain to a certain extent but you also took the oath to protect your fellow brothers."

CMPD Officers Ray Hughes, Pam Farewell and Montray Gilchrist sat down to talk with us about their jobs. All work as School Resource Officers in various schools, but all have also been on the streets and on patrol. They volunteered to talk with us in a conversation we said only had one rule: Be Honest.

"I want people to know that not all of us are bad," Officer Gilchrist said. He’s a 31-year-old who has been with CMPD since 2009. “We don’t all make snap judgements and profile. I want to ask people – all types of people - to give us a chance. Don’t judge us when you come to the door. Same way we shouldn’t judge you whenever we come to your house and answer that call.”

Charlotte is obviously not the only city with issues. It’s a national discussion, though often in quiet tones. Things got louder this past July when a Baton Rouge police officer wrote a Facebook post days before he was shot and killed, and part of what he addressed in that post was the difficulty he faced in being a black officer.

“I swear to God I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me,” Montrell Jackson wrote. He went on to say, “In uniform I get nasty hateful looks, and out of uniform some consider me a threat."

We asked the CMPD officers if they’ve had experiences in uniform versus out of uniform. All said yes. Officer Farewell, who has been with CMPD since 1999, went as far as to say her uniform can dictate how she's treated at a local Chik-Fil-A.

“I go in as a civilian, and I give the greeting for the day and I'm ignored,” she said. “But when I go in as a police officer it's, 'Hey Officer! How are you doing?' And you know, that blows my mind. Sometimes I’ll even get my meal paid for. There's a very real difference."

Don't get these officers wrong, when asked to give words to describe what they do, each said naturally positive things. They used words like “fulfilling”, “rewarding”, “challenging” and “I love it.”

Gilchrist said he likes being a role model for younger kids, showing what they can be in the future. Farewell is following in her family’s footsteps – her mother taught her to give back to the community and her father was a CMPD officer long ago. And Hughes, in this job almost 25 years now, got into law enforcement to prove his childhood wrong.

"I grew up in the inner city,” he said. “I know how some of my friends thought of police. They didn't trust them. I’m showing that it doesn’t have to be that way."

But all three agree it can be an uphill battle to get people in the African American community to see them as on everyone's side.

“I want people to know every day we put on this uniform," Officer Hughes said, "it’s because we sincerely believe in going out and helping everyone. Regardless of the situation.”

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