Look, I never heard of Kerr Putney before Tuesday, September 20th and I know nothing about him other than he is a Black American police chief of an agency in the Carolinas. But just seeing and listening to him during a televised interview today says so much. Clearly, he displays the poise of a college educated man. There is no doubt he’s written a few graduate papers on policing. I also bet he’s been to every top executive-level police leadership seminar in the country. As well, his demeanor suggests he’s checked all the standard “chief of police boxes” and probably rose through the ranks of the agency (patrol, SWAT, investigations, commander, etc.) picking up all the required policing skills for this position. Hell, I bet he was on the fast-track to become the next President of NOBLE and maybe the next superintendent of NYPD or Chicago PD. Well, that’s all over now over. You see, a lesson block they don’t teach at the UNC campus or the FBI’s National Law Enforcement Executive Institute is the what, where, when, why, and how Black American police chief should use their Blackness to save the policing culture.
You see, when Chief Putney stepped in front of the national media and defended his agency and police officer (allegedly Black as well), he made the exact same tragic mistake a dozen or so of his Black predecessors have made across the country. He assumed his Blackness…his shared Black American experience...would give him a pass, you know, from those angry, poor, and bitter Black folks demanding justice. He assumed that his Blackness would afford him the luxury of not being fully truthful or fully transparent. He actually believed that his Blackness would allow him to release an edited video of the killing, a selected photo of a gun and holster, and all police accountably would disappear. In fact, Chief Putney committed the greatest sin of all. He actually assumed that his Blackness could erase the memories of Black America and make them forget the 400-year marriage between the policing culture and White Supremacy. Huge mistake Chief Putney. As I reflect on the past few days, the only thing that comes to mind is Carter G. Woodson’s classic work, The Mis-Education of the Negro.