There’s a viral video going around of a police officer pulling over a couple. Both the driver and passenger are black. He asks them if they know why they’ve been pulled over. She says she doesn’t, and then he says that it’s illegal to drive on a hot day without ice cream, and then gives them two ice cream cones. The video has been praised as “good police work,” but there’s also a lot of people expressing concern. I’m one of those people.
Right away, I’m nervous. You can see the fear in the woman’s face. She even corrects herself when the cop asks if she knows why she’s pulled over. She says, “No,” and then quickly, “No, sir.” Her passenger, a black man, is sitting with his hands on his legs, perfectly still.
When the officer reveals this has all been so he can give out ice cream, everyone has a laugh, but the woman’s laughter isn’t a “my faith in police has been restored,” it’s relief. She practically starts crying, and it isn’t because she loves ice cream so much. She’s relieved that no one is going to get shot.
Okay, so giving ice cream is a nice thought. However, the fact remains that a police officer pulled over a driver for no reason, during a time when he should have known black people would be especially sensitive and on alert. Whether he intended to or not, the cop exploited her fear to try and…what? Make a point about “good cops?” Just be a nice guy? What audience is this video intended for?
It reminds me of a picture that was going around, which I can’t find. A cop is playing basketball with a young black boy, but the officer is still visibly armed to the teeth, for some reason. That boy is fully aware of who is in charge and is probably still wary that if he makes one wrong move, that gun could come out. That paradox is weird, it comes off like a power play. Police have the power to kill or give ice cream. You don’t know who is who.
Now, I don’t know that officer from the ice cream video. He might be working for police accountability and reform for all I know. However, in choosing to pull that “prank,” film it, and post it, he’s misunderstanding what people, especially black people, want from the police. They don’t want ice cream. They don’t want to play basketball with cops. They want justice.