An officer of the Los Angeles Police Department whose open letter to LeBron James following the Ma’Khia Bryant shooting went viral explained in an exclusive interview with Fox News what moved him to post it.
“I was LeBron James before I became a police officer,” said Deon Joseph, a 24-year LAPD veteran.
“I did not want to be a police officer at all. Being young and African American growing up in the late 80s and 90s, which were very violent and turbulent times, I thought that the police were basically our natural enemy,” Joseph said. “It’s almost like a rite of passage — if you’re African American, you have to hate the police.”
However, Joseph opted to pursue LAPD after his family business shut down following the Rodney King riots.
“I was struggling that inner struggle with my blackness. ‘Was I betraying my people?’ And of course the answer was no.”
“Once I joined the academy, all the stereotypes that I was fed about police kind of disappeared,” Joseph told Fox News.
After James posted a tweet targeting a Columbus, Ohio, police officer involved in Bryant’s death, Joseph responded with a missive on Facebook addressed to the NBA star.
Joseph, a senior officer who has spent the past 15 years of his career in Skid Row, said his goal in penning the post was to send a message that two men, on opposite ends of a spectrum, could sit down together and hear one another out.
“We need to stop the tribalism and the dehumanization of each other,” he urged.
He also discouraged any anger directed toward James in response to his post.
“He is also a victim, just like I was,” Joseph said about the NBA star. “If I wasn’t a police officer and all I saw in the media 24/7 was ‘The police hate black people,’ ‘The police are out to get people of color,’ I would probably feel the same way.”
He stressed the importance of remembering that police are just people, the vast majority of whom are decent.
“We’re human beings dealing with human beings and that’s not always going to be perfect or pretty.”