Veteran law enforcement officers Damon K. Jones and Cariol Horne are speaking out against police brutality and calling for reform.
They talked with WPSU about the challenges they have faced as minorities in the police force, their thoughts about the Black Lives Matter movement and why change is necessary.
Cheraine Stanford: Welcome to take note on WPSU. I'm Cheraine Stanford. We're joined today by two activists advocating for law enforcement reform. Cariol Horne was a police officer in Buffalo, New York, for nearly two decades. When she was fired after she says she was assaulted by a fellow officer while attempting to stop him from choking a handcuffed man. Damon K. Jones has worked in the West Chester Department of Corrections for 28 years. He represents the state of New York in the organization, Blacks in Law Enforcement of America. The two came to Penn State as part of a panel called “Black lives inside of blue lives” to discuss the question: What happens when Black Lives Matter intersects with Blue Lives Matter? Cariol and Damon, thank you so much for being with us today.
Damon Jones: Thank you for having me.
Cariol Horne: Thank you.
Cheraine Stanford: So why don't you both start off by telling us what got you into law enforcement? Why did the two of you decide to become law enforcement officers?
Cariol Horne: I passed the test. That's the short answer. But I did want to be able to help my community. And so I thought that would be a good field to be in, because you're out in the community.
Cheraine Stanford: And, Damon, what about you?
Damon Jones: I have many family members that was in law enforcement on my mother's side and my father's side. On my father's side, my uncle was the first black captain for New York State corrections. So I was around law enforcement and, as a youth, at that time, law enforcement officers were lived - actually lived in the community that they serve. So they were our dads’ club, football coaches, basketball coaches. So seeing positive law enforcement role models made me want to apply for the job and take the test.
Cheraine Stanford: And, Cariol, can you talk about the incident that you said led to you being fired from the Buffalo Police Department?
Cariol Horne: Okay. So I responded to a officer-in-trouble call. And when I got there and went inside of the house, the officer had the suspect, who was handcuffed, and he was punching the suspect in the face. So then me along with other officers, we ALL helped get him out of the house. And once we got out of the house, we all started going to our patrol cars, but they were in front of me. So he stopped and started choking the suspect. And so I yelled to him, like, “Greg, you're choking him,” you know. And I thought, whatever happened in the house prior to me getting there that he was just still upset about, so I just felt like if I called his name, that he would stop, you know, come back to reality, but he didn't. So I grabbed his arm around - from around his neck. And when I did that, and he came up and punched me in the face. So then, you know, I try to defend myself but two officers pulled me back, tearing my rotator cuff. And after that, we went back to the station house, where the lieutenant came in and said that I had jumped on Gregory Cassidy's back, which was not the case. And after that I was brought up on charges. You know, I said that I wanted to press charges against him for punching me in the face, but they were like, no, it has to be investigated. And I say, well, how does it have to be investigated? Where if I go to a call, and someone tells me that someone hit them, and lies to the person upon information and belief. And of course if they lie, then they will have to be - they will have to deal with those charges later. But they will not let me file the charges. I went as far as the FBI, and still nothing was done. But you know, in 2018 - last year, he pled guilty to a charge of using unnecessary excessive force and went to federal prison.
Cheraine Stanford: How did that incident affect either the way you thought about your career and law enforcement in general? Did that change things for you?
Cariol Horne: The incident itself didn't change because I had already been on for 18 years. So I've saw - I saw so many different things that happened on the police department. So it wasn't as if it was something that I knew couldn't happen. It was something that just didn't happen to me directly. It didn't change my view of the police department because I already knew that things weren't totally correct on the police department from the beginning. So it didn't change my view. It just, it just made me want to enact change.
Cheraine Stanford: For both of you, you came to speak on a panel about what happens when Black Lives Matter intersects with Blue Lives Matter. What does that intersection mean to you? Damon, we'll start with you.
Damon Jones: I think, especially in sister's case, black lives mostly matter to black officers before they matter to white offices. Not just the lives that are in the community, but officers that step out and address the injustices that's within different law enforcement departments. We have to be more vocal on the issues of, of the implicit racism in law enforcement, no matter what department is. And what keeps people from coming out is incidents like the sister here because, you know, she was doing - she did the right thing. And the law enforcement department, the politicians, the local organizations, did not support her. So when people say for the blue wall of silence to come down, when people talk about police officers not speaking out, but when we do, they're not there for us. The community is not there for us. But I think we need to start being more vocal. And people need to see black officers speaking out and organization supporting black officers.
Cariol Horne: And that's what's important with with Damon because he's still on the corrections department. And he is speaking out while he's still on which is rare, because you really don't have the backing but he is the backing. So he understands what to do. At that point, I didn't know what to do. You know, I didn't know where to go. There was no one for me to go to. So it was like really hard. You know, emotionally financially, you know, I have five children to take care of, so it was really hard. So I wish I would have known him back then. But I know you now, so we still can make a difference.
Cheraine Stanford: Why is it important to be talking about these issues?
Damon Jones: Because these issues affect our community. I mean, it's not a new - let's not get it twisted. It's not new. Right? It's been going on since there was law enforcement. Law enforcement was created to oppress black people. Do the slave code - enforcing the slave codes and the black codes. The only thing that's changed is this right here, the cell phone. Right? Black cops have been talking about these issues all the time. But nobody really believed us because there wasn't really cameras out. So after the Rodney King incident, and then the creation is this great guy, Steve Jobs, right, created this thing right here. Now you could record the incident right on the spot and put it up on social media. So now everybody's talking about it. But it's not new, but we just can't talk about it. We have to change it. We have to put push our elected officials to change legislation. And we need to change the language too, it shouldn't be police brutality. It should be police criminality, because what they're doing to our people are crimes.
Cheraine Stanford: How do you deal with the lack of trust that I know is often present in communities of color? You know, you're a law enforcement officer. How do you guys or have you dealt with that?
Cariol Horne: Well, I worked and lived in the same community. So I, you know, I was received pretty well, you know, as far as after I lost my job. So, of course, you know, everybody wants to tell you their police stories, but that's part of being a police officer living in the community.
Damon Jones: I didn't, I don't have a problem. I think because of my history of speaking out and being there for families and my wife being a detective, and then you know, they know that we carry ourselves with a certain integrity for our people, and understanding that we're black before blue. I have relationships with all organizations, even the Black Panther Party, you know. So, we relate to our community because we take the job seriously that we represent our community, we come from our community. So we don't want to see our community just respected by the institution that we work for.
Cheraine Stanford: How do you think police officers can build and in your case, you know, corrections officers too, can build trust in communities?
Damon Jones: Turn over the bad guys. Right? So here's the thing. They always talk about the no snitching rule in the black community, right? We can't solve crimes, because the people are not working with the police. So the first thing is the level of trust and accountability. So maybe if they if the police departments turn over their bad guys, right, because we all know who the ones that abuse, right you could go to any police department and pull their folders and see the discipline reports and the complaints from the community.
Cariol Horne: If they keep them.
Damon Jones: Right, exactly. So, you know, first thing, you turn over your bad guys and the black community will turn over their bad guys. Right? That's what needs to - that's what needs to be done. Because for the black community to trust law enforcement, they have to speak out when something's wrong with their own, too. They just can't say, well, y'all don't talk to police. Y'all don’t help with cases. No, you do the same thing with your own. So I think the first step is a level of accountability and let's swap our bad people and then we could work on after that.
Cheraine Stanford: You both have, you know, been speaking out. Has there been any backlash from other law enforcement?
Cariol Horne: For me, when it first happened, I would be up at like three or four o'clock in the morning reading the blogs, where they were dogging me. And as crazy as it sounds, I will be crying from laughing because I would say these people have no clue, like they are hilarious, like they were saying things that I knew was not true. But in their minds or because they want to other people to believe it, they will say stuff. But it will be on a level of like, high school or not even high school, grade school type stuff. I knew like some of these people that were saying this were cops, and they were not able to, like speak out. But even so this is their mentality, like this is what's funny is because these are the people that people call to answer their serious calls. You think that you're getting this professional and you got this person that thinks like this. And so, it was a lot of that and but I had a lot of community support at first. Well, I can't even say it first because the community has supported me until like, I announced that I was going to run for office and then they were like, kinda like, mm. But I'm thinking like, if you really want change, you know, I'm not gonna back down so why would you say, oh well, you know, the person in there, she's doing a pretty good job. Like, okay pretty good is okay but don't you want an excellent job? Don't you want somebody who's not gonna be a pushover? So, now I kind of feel like the community kind of like backed off.
Damon Jones: Well, I think I've got a lot of backlash. My family has been attacked; my family business has been attacked. But the sad thing about it - out of all of it: you know, you expect it from those who are doing wrong, but the sad thing is when the black law enforcement don't step up to the plate. You know? But now I, you know, I expect it, because there's certain people that I deal with, but, but to see grown men and women who can - who have a badge and gun that is scared to step up for their community and others that are willing to speak truth to power is the most heartbreaking thing that you could ever see. And I think we really need to change our mindset, the slave mentality of the black officer in these departments. It has to change or our communities are doomed because more and more young black males and female - or young people of color, they're not taking the test, because they have resentment towards law enforcement, because they don't see the people that look like them address the issues, other than a few that's on social media. So I think there’s always going to be pushback from the institution. But we need to stick together.
Cheraine Stanford: Um, what do you think is unique about being black and a law enforcement officer? Damon, I'll throw that to you because you know, you’re part of an organization called Blacks In Law Enforcement of America. Why is that necessary? What's the uniqueness?
Damon Jones: We need it. Some people say to me, what if we make a White Police Officers Association? I say you already have it - your local police department. Right here. That's - we need it because of the fact that we're outnumbered. We don't get support from our union. We usually get turned on by union. So we have to stick together, we have to network with each other. Nothing new under the sun. If more black officers be part of black law enforcement organizations, I think that they would see that a lot of their problems have already been solved, through lawsuits in different states. So it's about networking. It's about training. It's about understanding your value in this institution of law enforcement, and knowing that you're not alone and having a support system, you know. But often, the new officers don't understand the struggle, right. They don't understand the struggle of the older officers from the 60s and 70s that allowed them to have this job and make all this money.
Cariol Horne: Sorry, but some of the ones that came in on it in the 80s and 90s, who kind of like drop the bar for the new offices.
Damon Jones: Well, some of them have.
Cariol Horne: No, no, some of them, not you, but I'm just saying most of them. So actually, you are rare, you know, have a lot of demands on the job. You know what I mean?
Damon Jones: Oh, no, right. You're absolutely right. But what made me was older offices that came up in the 60s and 70s.
Cheraine Stanford: Can you talk about the importance of community policing and building relationships with communities? Cariol, I'll start with you.
Cariol Horne: Okay, you still work as a community police officer. We would work like an after school program working with youth. So it was great to be able to work with the youth. But I feel like we didn't offer as much as we could have. But I know a lot more now than I did then. But at least we did make a positive effect on them.
Cheraine Stanford: If you're just joining us, this is take note on WPSU. I'm Cheraine Stanford. Our guests are Cariol Horne and Damon Jones, advocates for responsible law enforcement practices. What kind of reform do you think needs to happen?
Damon Jones: I think we need national policies…
Cariol Horne: ...accountability…
Damon Jones: ...on police criminality. We need a legislation that defines what police criminality is. You’ve seen different cases: a police officer can violate policy and not go to jail. So we need to define what police criminality is. If you are a law enforcement officer and you're trained by the taxpayer, you get paid by the taxpayer, you get all your equipment by the taxpayer, and then you go out and willfully violate your rules and regulations of your local police department, violate the taxpayer that pays your salary, you should be accountable for that. So I think we need to look at that. Barack Obama's 21st Century Policing was a start. But the problem was, it didn't have teeth. It was just recommendations. So we need to revisit that and see how we could attach that to state legislation and pass laws, to hold officers accountable.
Cheraine Stanford: There's a lot of talk that there’s even more, maybe attention being paid to law enforcement and, you know, especially when there are shootings, particularly of unarmed people in the communities. When you hear those stories, how do you respond when you hear the news of that?
Damon Jones: It's not - it got to a point, if I sent out a press release, I just changed the name, the date and the victim and the officer - is so much, you know? I mean, and that said - is really sad to say, but, you know, until we address it, you know, the only way we could do is to legislation. Right? So we can't - other protests in the marches, that's fine. But if we continue to vote the same politicians in every election time, right then we are fools, right? We are fools because we keep doing the same thing, expecting a different result. That's insanity. So you know until we do that, right, and until we get to the point where we're going to start firing police officers, so they know if they violate policy, they're fired, and not just fired, they might be brought up on charges.
Cariol Horne: Not just them. Also whoever covers up for them.
Damon Jones: Exactly, exactly. So we have to - we have to really start looking at it differently and looking at it from a political point of view.
Cariol Horne: I agree.
Cheraine Stanford: And sort of flip that: What is it? What does law enforcement look like when it's working well? What are the positive things?
Damon Jones: When law enforcement is working well, they get approval from the community. They have what's called - it's called a Peelian principle with a lot of these law enforcement people, like the top. And part of it is success when your community approves your job, so that means you're doing good work, and when the community has a say in how their community is policed. And the black community is the only community in the nation that don't have a say in their communities police. A lot of times these incidents will never happen in the Italian community, Jewish community, Irish community. All these other different ethnic communities, they only happen in the black community. Why? Because the black community don't have a say in how their community police. If they are the taxpayers, they should have a say. And if it goes right back to the political: you keep putting the people in and they don't do anything. Now you need to take them out and put people who are actually going to change it, and then you’ll have that. Community policing is not just having a cop living in community or having nice programs, right? Community policing is a community having control over the hiring, the policies and the procedures, having a say, that's what community policing is about. They changed it over the years to make it some nonsense, because Professor Jimmy Bell from Jackson State University was originated community policing and it started in a little town of Florida, but then it got hijacked over the years. But it’s the community having a say in all these different parts of their policing because they are the taxpayers. They are the people that make the ship run, because they pay the bills.
Cheraine Stanford: What do you think the general public - what do we not understand about what it's like to be a law enforcement officer?
Cariol Horne: There's a culture that has been there for a long time, and it needs to be changed. So if an officer comes on the department, and Buffalo, were on probation for 18 months, and basically doing an 18 months, it's like you're just a blob of clay. So they're molding you. And because you can be fired for anything, then you want to go along to get along. So that's what you do. And then after that 18 months, it's like you don't care. You just basically just do whatever you've been molded to do, which is basically to see, hear and speak no evil against any police officer who's doing wrong. So the public doesn't understand the position that you're in. Because if you say something, then you won't have backup. Or you know, I’ve gone on felony calls alone because, you know, I was like, trying to speak up, but there's really nobody to speak up to. So you can't condone stuff like that and people don't understand that the position that you're in. I always say, one good apple doesn't make the rest of them good. But one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.
Damon Jones: I think part of the thing is the public, the public doesn't understand, as she said, the culture, but the public really doesn't understand, being in law enforcement is a very stressful job. Whether it's - if it's police officers, we - police interact with people, a lot of times on the worst situations, not the best situations. Corrections - we live with society's worst, those that you don't want on the street, and that you want locked up behind the wall, we have to be with them 24 hours a day. And that creates a lot of stress. It creates health problems. And it creates hard family life. But on the other hand, the culture needs to be addressed. And it needs to be changed from being outside of the public sector. Right. When you talk about a municipality, a lot of times the police department isn't really not even recognized as being a city employee. Right? Oh, he's a police officer. No, he's a city employee. He should be held at the same standards, ethical values, as every other employee that worked for the municipality. So I think there's a need for public education on both sides. Police officers are good for the community. Because if there wasn't any police officers in the community, it will be chaos. But you need the right type of police officer. I don't even advocate anymore for saying, you know what, you need a whole bunch of black cops on the job. Absolutely not. Because color doesn't mean consciousness.
Cariol Horne: Exactly.
Damon Jones: Because some black officers of justice will beat you in the head faster than one of the races, white cops, just to prove that they are part of the culture.
Cheraine Stanford: So can it get better?
Damon Jones: I hope so. I mean, I started the job in 1990, June of 1990, I entered the Academy. And I remember when I first joined the National Black Police Association, and I used to go to conferences and, you know, I felt like - and that was right about ‘92 - I felt like man, we around the corner, freedom is like, around the corner. You know, we're doing it. And now, 2019 right, I'm the older guy that I used to see, you know, in 1992 and I'm still fighting. And some of them guys are still alive. They're still out here, here fighting. You know, 30 years later, we're still fighting the same fight. So I hope it will get better. But after 30 years, I don't know. I really don't know.
Cheraine Stanford: Do you have hope that it can get better, Cariol?
Cariol Horne: I do have hope that it can get better. Now, being realistic? (Sigh.) I still have hope.
Cheraine Stanford: Why have you both chosen to be outspoken about issues around law enforcement or form?
Cariol Horne: Because there needs to be a change. And there's nobody else that's just going to step up. So we have to step up. Because we've been there. We are there. We've been there. So we know what it's like. So we understand that, you know, officers that are just coming on the job cannot speak out. And there's no one that they can go to because some of the higher ranking officers are some of the bad officers. So there needs to be someone who won't back down. But, you know, there's strength in numbers.
Damon Jones: I didn't know any other way. When I got the job, I didn't know any other way. The senior officers in corrections and those in law enforcement that I, that I knew they were all radicals. So I didn't, I didn't know any other way until it was my turn to start talking, you know. And I absorbed, by that time, I absorbed over 15 years of being around what I call gods in black law enforcement. These guys these guys went to battle, you know, with their departments, in having some type of equality. So, you know, speaking out was natural to me, because that's all I saw was black officers, male and female that spoke out against injustice.
Cariol Horne: Wow.
Cheraine Stanford: Cariol and Damon, thank you so much for being with us today.
Cariol Horne: Thank you for having me.
Damon Jones: Thank you, thank you.
Cheraine Stanford: Cariol Horne was a police officer in Buffalo, New York, for nearly two decades. When she was fired after she says she was assaulted by a fellow officer while attempting to stop him from choking a handcuffed man. Damon K. Jones has worked in the West Chester Department of Corrections for 28 years. He represents the state of New York in the organization, Blacks in Law Enforcement of America. The two speak out against police brutality, and are calling for reform within law enforcement. Hear more Take Note interviews on our website at wpsu.org/TakeNote. I’m Cheraine Stanford, WPSU.