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Mixed-race cop on policing in 2021: ‘I’ve been called racist and a Nazi’

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Mixed-race cop on policing in 2021: ‘I’ve been called racist and a Nazi’

In this era of civil unrest and partisan politics, it’s harder than ever for cops — particularly black cops — to do their jobs. In this excerpt from the new book “Beaten Black and Blue: Being a Black Cop in an America Under Siege,” Ray Hamilton, 42, reveals his experiences working as a mixed-race cop in San Ramon, Calif., east of Oakland, as well as his early days serving in Washington DC’s tough Sixth District.

A big part of my story is that I’m black and white, and that puts me right in the middle of all the race and policing issues.

And, yes, I’ve dealt with different aspects of racism. On a routine traffic stop, people might say, “Oh, you just stopped me because I’m black.”

Really? Because I’m mixed race, and sometimes, you can’t tell what I am.

On the East Coast, they thought I was Puerto Rican, and here in California, they don’t know what I am. There’s no box to put me in, which I think is true for a lot of people. So when that happens, I call people out on that. I ask them, “Could it be that I stopped you because your tail light was out, or your tags expired a year ago, or you ran a red light? It couldn’t be anything like that?” 

That usually turns things around.

Ray Hamilton (10th from right) when he first joined the force in 2011. Though he works with officers of all colors, he said he feels “stuck in the middle” between his co-workers and the community.

I never saw myself as looking tough or like a thug; I had curly hair and an olive skin tone. But when I was a teenager, I got stopped by the gang unit in Dallas — a true felony stop — with guns drawn and everything.

“Put your hands on the steering wheel!”

Whoa, I thought. What in the world is happening?

“You’re in a gang!”

No, I wasn’t, and I never was. However, my cousin was in a gang, and he used to get caught up in all kinds of criminal stuff. He ended up getting shot five times, and died. 

All of that really turned me away from being in a gang or doing anything criminal.

Instead, I ended up in the military. I was in the Air Force working for the Department of Defense on Bolling Air Force Base. At the time, I was working as a sports and recreation assistant, creating extracurricular events for the Air Force community. 

Hamilton started out in the Air Force before joining the DC police force — chosen as one of 35 candidates out of 10,000.
Hamilton started out in the Air Force before joining the DC police force — chosen as one of 35 candidates out of 10,000.
Pete Thompson for NY Post

I believe how you do your job is more of a calling than what your job actually is. And for some reason, after the military I decided I was going to apply to the DC Metro Police Department. They weren’t hiring at the time, and several people advised me not to join that “dirty police department.” I applied anyway, and I waited. I waited for two years. Most people apply to multiple departments to increase their odds of being hired. Me? I only applied to one. I believed I was supposed to work there. Eventually, after their hiring freeze was lifted, I became one of 35 people hired — out of 10,000 candidates. 

That’s how I started my career with the police 10 years ago.

‘When a person of color calls me a racist, I feel bad for them. It’s like they’re conditioned to believe people treat them a certain way because they’re black.’

Ray Hamilton

When a person of color calls me — another person of color — a racist, I feel bad for them. It’s like they’re conditioned to believe people treat them a certain way because they’re black. I want to say to them, “Wait a minute. You don’t want me pulling you over because you have your hair in cornrows, you have tattoos, you’re smoking a blunt, but you don’t want me to assume you’re a gangster, right? You don’t want me to assume that, but that’s one of the first things that comes to mind. But that’s not reasonable for me to do that. That’s me judging you, and you don’t want me doing that. Why judge me?”

During the recent riots, I was accused of being an overseer, someone who watched over slaves. Another time, someone accused me of being like the Nazis marching the Jews off to the concentration camp trains, as if I were marching people off to be killed. I was surprised by that. It really does get that dirty sometimes.

Hamilton said it’s “demotivating” to stand back and watch as looters are given free rein to steal from stores.
AFP via Getty Images

When I have on riot duty gear — or the uniform in general — I remember I’m not here representing myself; I’m here to try to keep some kind of peace. When I’m wearing either one, I don’t represent myself or my own ideas and thoughts. I’m there to protect whatever brothers and sisters are around me. 

We’re not there to control people. They should feel free to protest all they want. I may even agree with them, but I don’t agree with all the methods. And I can’t let a few opportunists cause this thing to become a mob and be unlawful.

I think it’s important to hold that attitude. 

Recently, a couple of guys on the line took a knee. No, no, brother! You can’t take a knee when you’re on the line, whether you agree with them or not. You can’t take a knee because that puts everyone else at risk now. It’s very awkward. It’s not the time, and then it looks like we’re not standing together. 

When Hamilton dons riot gear, he says, “I’m not here representing myself; I’m here to try to keep some kind of peace.”
When Hamilton dons riot gear, he says, “I’m not here representing myself; I’m here to try to keep some kind of peace.”
AFP via Getty Images

When I’m in the uniform, I’m there for a greater purpose. That purpose is to keep some kind of peace and maintain some kind of order, and to do that, you have to show some kind of solidarity.

That said, I also want to build a rapport with the community I serve. When I was in DC, especially in the project area, I was dealing with a different mindset. And I knew you had to meet them where they were and build that relationship. The beat I had was a very rough four blocks where there were murders, drug deals, you name it. I had a partner, a white dude from Arizona. He’d never been around that many black people, and this was an all-black neighborhood. When we walked that beat, my partner kind of walked behind me. You could visibly tell he was scared. I had to explain to him, “Dang, man, they’re gonna pull your card if you walk behind me. Don’t do that. If they see you’re scared, they’ll respond in a bad way. You gotta walk beside me, not behind me.”

Since I’m in the middle — black (and white) and blue — I find myself walking the line. 

As an officer who is both black and white, Hamilton says he tries not to prejudge the people he's tasked with serving — and he doesn't want them to prejudge him, either..
As an officer who is both black and white, Hamilton says he tries not to prejudge the people he’s tasked with serving — and he doesn’t want them to prejudge him, either.
Pete Thompson for NY Post

I know some officers have bad attitudes about the communities they serve. Yes, it’s often a racial divide. Some of the white cops had a different outlook. They even made patches: We’re not stuck here with you; you’re stuck here with us. And sadly, yes, I have heard some of the guys refer to black people as savages. I’m thinking, “My gosh, how are you going to deliver or render any kind of justice or service to this community if you refer to them as savages?”

So, I’m trying to win over the white officers and the black community. 

Sadly, I do understand why some people hate us. 

On one occasion, a black officer stopped a guy who was a known criminal. Everybody knew he dealt drugs, and he had drugs on him. But the officer demeaned him, I guess trying to teach him a lesson in front of the other people in the area. He made him kneel down on the concrete (that hurts), and he had him down there for more than five minutes. The crowd felt like the cop was showing off and abusing his authority. So, they started name-calling — called us the slang term for cops, “twelve,” called us FEDS, called us all kinds of names. I believe when you name someone like that then they’re no longer a person. Like calling someone a savage or shouting out, “F twelve” — either side of the argument — they’re no longer a person. 

Hamilton has chased down “rough riders” on dirt bikes and ATVs on the streets of DC.
Hamilton has chased down “rough riders” on dirt bikes and ATVs on the streets of DC.
Getty Images

Not too long after that, we caught a guy on a very minor misdemeanor charge, riding a dirt bike in the city. These “rough riders” would ride dirt bikes and ATVs in the city, and the cops would chase them. I caught this one guy, and we were just going to write him up, get his fingerprints, and process him out, but this guy had a $10,000 wad of bills on him. He claimed it was from his family business. But I know that most businesses usually don’t transport cash in their waistbands. I needed to hold the money until he could bring down receipts to prove it was earned through that business. He started yelling at me that he wanted to see it put in the evidence bag. I was surprised. Did he think I was going to steal it? Apparently yes, because other cops in my district had been fired for misconduct. No wonder he didn’t trust us!

I can sometimes understand the lack of trust from the community, but when you don’t feel you have the support of your leaders, that’s when it gets really hard. When I was on the riot team in DC, we weren’t able to wear our full riot gear because it looked too aggressive. Here in California, it’s more of the same. During one of the riots, I was hit with a bottle, and we had to shoot a rubber round back at that person. Then, we had to use tear gas to disperse the crowd. Three days later, they took away our tear gas. I was recently deployed to Sacramento, and we were told that if protesters break the windows at City Hall, we should let them. 

Being a black cop in an america under siege

Even in Oakland, we had to let them loot a Target, a 7-Eleven store, and a car dealership.

I know all the violence and looting are coordinated, because I saw someone watching us and monitoring our movement. Then, he called it to his fellow rioters. Not being able to do anything or take any action when laws are being broken and officers are being hurt? That’s demotivating. You end up getting what we call 4 percent. Some officers go out on duty, but they won’t be proactive, and they give less than 100 percent because it’s a reaction to feeling powerless and not being supported. There’s also a threat of being sued by someone, even if the officers are just defending themselves. It’s very disheartening.

While I grew up feeling like I never had to be anyone but who I was, these days, I feel like I am always being forced to pick a side. I try to identify with the people I work with, and I also try to identify with the community I’m policing. I don’t want them to feel like I said, that I’m just here as an overseer. I’m not here to fine you and arrest you, but I have a job to do. It can be hard to feel so stuck in the middle.

Reprinted with permission from “Beaten Black and Blue: Being a Black Cop in an America Under Siege” by Brandon Tatum, published by Bombardier Books (2021). 

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker
USA TODAY Sports

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers

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Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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