WASHINGTON — Scenes of officers dressed in tactical gear, standing toe-to-toe with protesters, and using tactics to disperse crowds have played out across the country as thousands protest the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis.
In the early days of protests in D.C., there were large numbers of federal and local officers working get a handle on agitators within the crowds who began setting fires and damaging property.
While the law enforcement presence has greatly subsided in the District, the demonstrations, calls for racial equality, and demands to end police brutality are far from over.
Officer Hakim Tate, a 16-year veteran with the D.C. police department, said working as an officer during the protests in the nation’s capital has been difficult as he balances being a cop and a black man.
"It's a tough spot right now to be in, you know, real intense," he said.
Tate could only describe what it has been like working on the front lines while thousands protest racial injustices as intense.
“It hurt, and it keeps happening time and time again,” Tate described watching the video of Floyd before he died. "So, the change needs to happen. A change definitely needs to happen because I got three brothers. I've got a 5-year-old son. I can only imagine my son when he gets 16 or 17 having to tell me what one of my co-workers or somebody behind the badge did to them."
Tate is balancing being a D.C. native, a black man, and his career as a police officer.
"Sometimes, when I'm sitting in the car before I go into the house I got to decompress. I got to take deep breaths. Man, and sometimes I cry because it is painful to see what the world has come to and the tension between law enforcement and the cry for help for change," Tate said.
Officer Tate admitted that things are not perfect with law enforcement agencies across this country and said he grew up being taught to dislike police.
"From a very early age I understood what F12 meant, and that was put in my heart without me even understanding the total dynamics of what needed to be and how things can change," he explained.
Tate decided he wanted to make a change from the inside, and his work with the community was featured on WUSA9’s ‘For The Culture’ segment in March 2020.
He works with children in schools, is a member of MPD's Side By Side band, embeds himself in community events and activities, and writes children’s books to help strengthen families and mend the strained relationship between law enforcement and communities of color.
His new book highlights the relationship between black fathers and their sons.
"I'm able to be compassionate. I'm able to be understanding to the culture of our people -- of black people for when it comes to trying to make a decision and problem solve," Tate said.
He explained that the impact he has been able to have on the lives of people who live in his hometown may not have happened if he did not become a police officer.
"I don't think so because I would not have been able to see both sides," he said.
Tate urges people to have real, candid conversations with police officers and encourages other black men and women to become officers to help make changes from the inside.