by Senior Writer Britni Sharde
We’ve heard the saying “Not all cops are the same!” Some of us have had respectable experiences, like being pulled over and only being given a warning or a ticket. But there are others whose experiences have triggered generational trauma. They have met their demise with a single police encounter. There are many North Tulsans who see police and immediately fear being harassed, abused, or worse at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve. What are the basic necessary components that should characterize those that are deemed qualified to protect and serve? Who are we, the community, asking the police to be?
I spoke with Officer Abriana Oglesby about her experiences as an officer, her thoughts on racial disparities within the Tulsa Police Department, and what it means to be a public servant.
BS: What made you decide to become a police officer?
AO: I worked in the Department of Corrections until 2017. I’ve always had a close relationship with the youth. I also worked in juvenile detention centers, was a therapist and have grown to enjoy being in a position of authority. I believe that respect for authority has diminished tremendously with our youth. I see it as me helping to guide the misguided.
BS: How do you respond to the idea of Black Lives Matter versus the Blue Lives Matter movement?
AO: I believe if the movement brings unity and peace, I support it. I don’t believe the individual groups should not value all lives. We are sworn to protect every life, and the reality is that there are black lives on the blue line, and we shouldn’t be obligated to pick a side. If it’s positive, then it’s positive. What people don’t understand is that there are some behaviors that warrant aggression in order to neutralize a situation. We have to do our job.
BS: Have you experienced any racial disparities in your line of work?
AO: No, I cannot say that I have. I really do carry myself the way I want to be treated. I don’t engage in certain things, and I don’t jump on bandwagons. The only thing I notice is when I see kids. They’re always so shocked to see a black female police officer. There are not enough black women on any police force in Tulsa.
BS: As an officer, are you well known in the area that you police?
AO: No. I believe my face is familiar since I used to work in the juvenile system. But I honestly just treat all people with respect. I believe in taking care of all people.
BS: What does it mean to protect and serve?
AO: To protect and serve means to make sure to meet people where they are, serving all entities, and making sure to convey the expectations. Making the right and legal judgments. It’s my duty to enforce laws. To serve doesn’t necessarily mean to be a public servant. Serving is a duty and commitment to enforce an administrative obligation of order.
We discussed a situation that happened in early July where a black male, Robert Morton, was slammed onto the hood of his car by a white Mississippi patrolman. He was later charged with resisting arrest, speeding, disorderly conduct, seat belt violation, and failure to provide identification. When the officer’s backup arrived, the officer immediately grabbed Morton by the neck, and in a moment’s time, both officers were tussling with Morton to the ground. Officer Oglesby’s response was that she couldn’t really formulate an opinion because there were parts of the scenario that she claimed we couldn’t see. She asserted that sometimes we formulate opinions on situations too early without knowing the full story. She also stated that it sounded like the second officer was definitely in need of some additional training because he responded without an attempt to neutralize the situation.
We must encourage our own to join in the work of protecting and serving our communities while simultaneously recognizing that the overall culture of any individual police officer or any collective police department should aspire to be one embodying the guardian mindset, not one merely of a warrior.
Photo credit: Joseph Rushmore