In the hours following the shooting death of five police officers in Dallas during an otherwise peaceful demonstration, opinions blared from social media, televisions, and newspaper front pages. In the din of it all, I reached out to the retired police chief Donald Grady II, who served as chief in Santa Fe, New Mexico, among other cities, and also trained police forces abroad in managing racial and ethnic strife among the ranks and with civilians. His 36 years on the force, as a black American, were marked by some familiar tensions and themes—racial targeting, police brutality, unwarranted hostility, lack of cooperation, and mutual paranoia. In a candid and expansive conversation, Grady unpacked for me some of the complexities of wearing a blue uniform while living in brown skin. An edited version of our conversation follows.
Juleyka Lantigua-Williams: What was your reaction?
Donald Grady II: Disappointment. Heartache. I’m disappointed that anyone would decide that the way to resolve issues that we have between the public and the police, in particular minorities and the police, is through additional violence. I don’t understand how anyone could rationally believe that perpetrating violence against the police would somehow endear the police to the rest of society. Heartache because we’ve got people dying all over this country. We’ve got civilians dying at the hands of the police and police dying at the hands of civilians. And rather than talk about things reasonably, logically, we have the police ratcheting up the rhetoric and we’ve got members of the community ratcheting up the rhetoric and that doesn’t resolve any issues at all. It bothers me any time we lose a citizen or we lose a police officer We have to recognize that police officers are citizens too.