PUEBLO — The national conversation about what some see as systemic racism in policing, puts African American or Black police officers right in the middle of the debate.
News5 sat down with two officers on the Pueblo Police force, to discuss how their race and career intertwine. They told us their character is what really defines them.
Officer Antonio Crowder will have been an officer for three years in March. Officer Crowder served in the army for 20 years before becoming a police officer. "Combat deployed four times. I've been in several different countries, states, so in 20 years, I've been quite a few places... One day I said, I will become a police officer. I've followed all my dreams," said Officer Crowder.
He moved to Pueblo to be with his family. "Every day, I put this uniform on. I get to show my kids what it's like to get up and be dedicated to a job, a passion... For me, doing this job, I just want to keep looking the next day. What's going to happen next? What's the great thing I'm going to do? Who am I going to help? Whatever it is, I come home and they [his family] smile, they're happy to see me, they're just overwhelmed. So, if I can keep that smile for them, this job's not going anywhere for me," said Officer Crowder.
Q: "Why did you say yes to this interview today? What's your goal out of this?"
A: "I want to be a person that makes a difference. Hopefully somebody listens to what I have to say and might say, he might have a point, or if he doesn't, then I don't have a point. But I tried, and that's what I'm asking everybody to do."
Officer Crowder said the conversation starts when people look past a career. "I know there's a lot going on in the world, but it's not going to affect how I do my job... We all just have to continue to better ourselves as a whole, completely. No matter what we do as a job or as a profession, it's just us as a people, that's where we need to start," said Officer Crowder.
Q: "What would you want to leave people with that might help them think about what another person, who doesn't share their opinions, might have to say?"
A: "That's a hard question. Because some people don't want to hear others opinions. I mean you can't force those opinions on others. Again, all we can do is try. If it fails then we try again. That's the best answer I can give."
Officer Roddrick Lincoln also agreed to sit down and speak with News5. He's been with the Pueblo Police Department for around four years, and is originally from Kentucky.
Officer Lincoln spent eight years in the Army, and was stationed at Fort Carson. He said he missed the sense of purpose provided by the military, and found it within the police department.
Officer Lincoln said the reason he does this job is to help guide young people toward a path that could help them in the long run. "I believe that it starts with our youth, and being a police officer, I think I can affect that change," said Officer Lincoln.
He said he stays off of social media for the most part, and it helps ensure he can focus on work and do his job to the best of his ability. "There's a spotlight on us as police officers... Not saying I ignore it or anything like that, but I try not to get too much involved to allow the emotions and stuff like that to come out and affect my job," said Officer Lincoln.
Officer Lincoln worked the Christopher Columbus statue protests in Pueblo for around 12 weeks straight. "They're exercising their rights. Everybody has an opinion, everybody has the right to believe in whatever they believe in. That's not going to change how I do my job... It does take patience, but it's also just treating people fairly. Like I said, I don't care if they're criminals or have a criminal background or anything like that, you can talk to me just like you can talk to anyone else," said Officer Lincoln.
Q: "What about within policing, do you think that there is reform needed?"
A: "Honestly, as long as we stay transparent and do the right thing, as we should, I don't think there's a change that needs to be made."
Officer Lincoln also said having a police department represent the community is key. Here's a breakdown of both the City of Pueblo and the police department's diversity makeup:
Officer Lincoln said he has had family members tell him this career is the one for him. "As a Black officer, they know that I'm going to do the right thing. They know who I am, my character and all the stuff like that. I get it all the time, you know, like, you should be an officer... I don't allow my race to dictate who I am or what I do. Black, brown, green, yellow, purple, I'll be the same person regardless," said Officer Lincoln.
"Yes, I can take off my uniform at the end of the day. I'm still a human at the end of the day, just like they are. But when I don't have my uniform on, I still can be pulled over by a police officer," said Officer Lincoln.
Officer Lincoln encouraged conversation with citizens, and said he believes talking to people can really make a difference.
The Pueblo Police Department stressed they will always protect the people's right to protest, no matter the opinions being expressed.