Since the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, protests have flooded streets throughout the country calling for justice and police reform.
“That one officer that we saw he looked like he was posing, like a person posing over an animal that they just shot out at,” expressed retired law enforcement officer Cameron Gary.
Gary has 30 years of experience serving in San Diego County law enforcement. He began his career as a probation officer, then moved to the Sheriff's department and five years ago he retired as a supervising investigator for the District Attorney's office.
Gary’s father, Archie Gary, grew up in Jim Crow Alabama and Gary’s great-grandfather, Enoch “Nug” Gary, was a slave.
“He was 20 years old when slavery ended in Alabama so it wasn’t that long ago, that’s my great-grandfather. Not 10 generations, two,” shared Gary. “We weren’t taught to hate people because we’ve been hated, but we don’t have to hate back.”
Photos: Retired San Diego County Law Enforcement Officer Shares Personal Experience on Racism and Policing
The retired officer says he's grown up in red line housing in east county, he's been racially profiled and verbally harassed, but he says there is no hate in his heart.
“Where you have it’s us against them, you know, I don’t think it really should be that and that’s what its become,” he said.
Gary was part of the first ever community policing teams for the Sheriff's department, something he says we need more of.
“That’s what you’re seeing in demonstrations now, not the looters or rioters, I am not talking about them,” said Gary. “I am talking about people out there who are saying ‘We’re sick of this, we don’t want to be hated. We want to have partnership and that’s what community policing is all about.”
The South Bay father has seen and been through a lot, like randomly getting pulled over by the police when off-duty.
“As a black man I have an adult son and any black person who has a kid in the United States has to give their kid the talk,” he said.
As for policing, when Gary reflects on the killing of Floyd he sees a need for change within the law enforcement structure.
“We have a higher standard, we have a duty to protect everybody including the person that’s being handcuffed,” he said.
Gary says in order to see change it's necessary to have more diversity among those leading departments by teaching a different police culture.
“I’ve been hit with that ‘How are you going to be a brother and still do that job?’ that kind of thing,” he says. “That hurts, I was black long before I was ever in law enforcement and I’m still black now. That won’t change, but by me being there changes things.”