To the Sixth District of Washington D.C.,
Throughout the last four years I have seen someone get shot in the head. I have answered the call for stabbings and rapes. I recently responded to a call about an 11-year-old boy who was beaten up and killed. I have walked into a scene where a lady slashed her boyfriend’s stomach from the top all the way down to the bottom. It is hard to witness such crimes; but I still want to be here. In fact, when I graduated from the police academy in 2015 I chose to be here. I believe my purpose in life is to help the hopeless find hope.
Most people don’t understand the pain and darkness that permeates these inner city communities. But I want you to know that not only do I know your struggle, I have lived it. I grew up in Fort Myers, Florida, an area similar to the Sixth District. At about 12 years old I remember waking up at about 5 a.m., walking outside and seeing a SWAT team three doors down. They were breaking down the door to a drug house. I played with the kids who lived there. They were my friends.
I grew up with two moms at a time when it wasn’t cool to have homosexual parents. I got taunted and picked on by my peers. So I fought. I fought a lot. So much so that I turned to boxing. The sport became an outlet for me and at 13 I began fighting for the Police Athletic League, a boxing program run by the police department.
I want you to know that not only do I know your struggle, I have lived it.
However, I was still not immune to the struggles of the streets. I was faced with this reality in 2010, when I got a call that my brother was murdered.
At the time I was on the cusp of graduating with a degree in criminal justice at Columbus State in Georgia. My brother’s death really took me by surprise because he had stopped hanging out with the wrong crowd. He was having his first baby. I was sad and depressed. And it was at that moment where it all came together. I knew that I wanted to help people. I wanted to save lives.
When I started working here in the sixth district four years ago there was a lot of tension between the officers and the residents. There was a lack of trust in the officers and I can’t say that that’s without reason. And even though I am a black woman, I was just another badge. I was not to be trusted and I was not respected.
I have tried to show you that no officer is the same. My job is to protect and serve the entire community, not to exert power over you or lock people up for petty crimes. Many of you don’t even know me but I would risk my life for you.
When I am off the clock I volunteer in this community, going to events to feed the homeless or provide them with clothing and shoes. I volunteer with the Humane Rescue Alliance, which helps homeless pets and I spend time with Martha’s Table, an organization that provides bags of healthy foods for the less fortunate. I do it because I care.
As a result of my efforts I was named DC Officer of the Year. Even more importantly, I seem to be helping to bridge the gap between the officers and the community we serve.
Many of you call me Officer Friendly. You tell me that you view officers differently now that you know me. It makes me smile when you walk up to me, shake my hand, say thank you and tell me you appreciate me.
But we still have so much more work to do. I am writing you to ask you to continue to come together as black people and to continue to let us, the police, earn your trust. The violence, the crime and the hurt in this community needs to come to an end. To do so we all need to take responsibility for each other’s pain. We need to place ourselves in other people’s positions and learn to support and love each other. We need to love ourselves. There is so much talent here. I want you to believe and encourage each other and most importantly believe in yourselves.
Effective change can only happen if everyone within this community works together and then as a united group, works with the police. For that to happen you need to have hope that together we, police and civilians, can stop the violence, the hunger and the desperation in this community. Because it’s when the hopeless find hope that we will be able to give this community what we all really want. Only then will we be able to give each other what my brother and so many others from here already lost – a future.
With endless hope,
Officer Tiara Brown (AKA Officer Friendly)
Written with Lauren Brill
I am an undefeated professional boxer and a former World Boxing Champion. I have been an officer in the Washington D.C. since 2015. I chose NAMI as my charity because of the amount of suicides/suicide attempts I have seen in the community as well as in the police force.
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Ruth, your letter moved me to tears. Once upon a time I was very closed off about the LGBT community but over a course of several years, I turned my fear into understanding and I actively stand with the community for their equal rights because it is the right thing to do.