Black officer examines community relations
By Holly Neumann
Madison Officer Corey Saffold believes unconscious bias plays a role in how police and African-Americans interact.
Saffold spoke at the Sturm Memorial Library in Manawa about his seven years of experience as a black officer and the on-going tension between police and their communities.
“I’m an African American man and a police officer,” said Saffold. “I can take the perspective of both. I can understand where both sides are coming from.”
Saffold showed videos on recent police involved shootings and he believes that unconscious bias plays a role.
“There is a level of racism in all of us,” Saffold said. “It’s the world we live in. It’s what we do with it that matters.”
He said when a person is in the right situation, at the right time, with all the right variables, that those biases come out.
“This bias does not have to be with race, it can be any personal matter you have in your life,” he said. “As a police officer, we’re in a profession where you just cannot have that.”
Saffold shared how his own personal experiences with police officers, in his younger years were positive, professional contacts. He believes that most people have this same experience, but that society buys into the media, that law enforcement are going crazy.
“For every one contact that you see that went bad, went wrong, there’s thousands of them between white officers and black men, or black officers with white men, that go extremely well, were professional and no one had to leave with their dignity taken away,” Saffold said.
According to Saffold many of the things you see on television is the officer doing his job.
“Not everything you see is actually the officer doing wrong,” he said. “It’s the officer carrying out his job, his duty with a person that is making it very difficult.”
He feels that officer-involved shootings cannot always be avoided.
“While they do not happen often,” Saffold said. “We also recognize and understand that there are several problems out there.”
The Department of Justice now investigates all officer-involved shootings in Wisconsin.
Saffold believes that trust is key.
“I see trust building as a long, hard role,” he said. “It’s going to take the police engaging in their communities. When people can see us out of uniform, laughing and having fun with community members, its builds trust. The more we can build that trust, the better it will be.”
, felt that it was an important event for the community.
“I thought this was an event that would spark some really great conversation in our own community,” said Librarian Lynn Hokenstad, who organized the event. “I would hope that the people walked away with a new, fresh prospective way of thinking of things. This kind of thing can happen anywhere. We have been really blessed here in Manawa.”
Saffold’s visit was sponsored by the Sturm Memorial Library and the Working Lives Project of the Wisconsin Humanities Council.