After a few moments passed by, several white males walked into the room and examined their anatomy. In many cases, the examination of these human specimens leads to much debate over who is promised to receive the next available Black or Hispanic person to work the field. On some occasions the white males would attempt to lure the men of color by telling them that they would be under better conditions if they were placed in their care. After the man or woman is picked, they are then put out in the field to carry out the difficult and extremely dangerous job that they were chosen for. In many cases they are seriously injured and sometimes they lose their lives.
Although those who are responsible for them are aware of the hazards that are associated with their tasks, little is done to ensure their safety or correct the conditions that cause their harm. For all practical purposes, the actions of those who put them in this circumstance indicates that these Blacks and Hispanics are dispensable.
The scenario that was just laid out is not a rendition of a slave auction taking place during the 1800s. It is instead the cruel and sad plight that plagues the daily life of Blacks and Hispanics who perform undercover work for the New York City Police Department. This climate contributes to many of the serious injuries and sometimes death of undercover officers. The answer to how and why this 21st-century slavelike condition still exists could only be understood by taking a close look at the job of an undercover officer.
In many cases the initiative to become an undercover officer has much to do with how career advancement is carried out in the American law enforcement community. New York City is only one example of what takes place in all of our nation=s police agencies. There are two primary tracks an officer could take to advance through the ranks of law enforcement. One way is to take a promotional examination to become a supervisor and the other is to following the investigator route, which leads to becoming a detective.
If a police officer decides to take the detective route to advancement, he would be assigned to one of the police departments many investigator units.
Out of the list of units he could be assigned to, the two most dangerous are those that require officers to work undercover to rid our communities of guns and drugs. It is in these two assignments that American police agencies= dark racist secret is lived out.
There are three ways that a police officer can be assigned to one of these two units. He could be either a supervisor, an investigator or an undercover.
Out of the three positions it is the role as an undercover that is the most dangerous. That officer is responsible for being in close proximity with the often-armed drug or gun dealer. Eighty to ninety percent of the officers who are assigned to be undercovers are either Black or Hispanic, while the opposite is true for those who are assigned as supervisors or investigators.
It leads many to ask why don=t Blacks and Hispanic apply for an investigator position in these units or choose one of the less dangerous detective path assignments. The answer lies in the racist actions of the police department.
When Blacks and Hispanics attempt to choose other assignments they are told that all that is available is the role as an undercover.
During the interviews process for entry into the two units that buy guns or drugs, supervisors fight over having the Black or Hispanic officer work the streets for them reminiscing of how plantation owners bid on a newly arrived slave buck.
Not only is the assignment of an undercover extremely dangerous, they also work under correctable hazardous conditions. Under humane conditions an officer should not spend more than three years being an undercover. Although this recommendation was put in place by the police department, many undercovers are buying drugs or guns well over these number of years. They also are forced to continually purchase guns or drugs in the same areas where they have been already identified as being police officers. This increases the risk of being injured.
Another area of danger is the listening device that is used by the undercover to call for help when an assignment has gone bad. Although modern technology has produced several technological advancements in improving communication, the police department has not made these improvements available to the dangerous assignment of undercovers. On far too many occasions an undercover=s calls for help is not heard. This leads to serious assaults and some cases possible death.
The police department justifies their assignment of Blacks and Hispanics to the dangerous assignment of undercovers by stating that only this group can successfully infiltrate the illegal world of dealers of drugs and guns. This reasoning is a terrible indication of the imbedded racism in how police agencies fight crime. Although a successful undercover operation is welcomed in communities of color, the small amounts of drugs and guns that are recovered are only the tip of the iceberg of what is possessed in affluent communities. If there are no undercover operations taking place in all areas of the city then the police department is ignoring a large portion of criminal behavior. FBI stats have long shown that drugs are used just as much in white areas of the city as in communities of color.
In addition, some of the less dangerous undercover assignments such as Vice enforcement, which includes gambling and prostitution, takes place in Black and Hispanic communities. Yet, the overwhelming numbers of officers assigned to these units are whites. In many cases when Black female officers are assigned to units such as the Vice unit, they only remain there for three months to be decoy prostitutes. After the three months are up they send them back to uniform assignments to avoid having to promote them to detectives.
Because police work has an inherit amount of danger associated to it, it is imperative that the nation=s police agencies do all that they could to alleviate harm to officers assigned to protect us. The concern for this must be ensured for all men and women in law enforcement, including Black and Hispanic officers.