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In The Eyes Of Police, Brooklyn Resident Often Felt Like 'A Problem'


The death of Freddie Gray still has people thinking about their relationship to the police. We're going to hear now from Jared Marcelle. He's a 27-year-old New Yorker, and, for him, that relationship is complicated. His story comes to us from WNYC's Radio Rookies.

JARED MARCELLE, BYLINE: Tuck your shirt in and wear your pants on your waist. Try to frown less and smile more. Be respectful. I heard those things a million times from my parents.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: There was just raising kids properly. There was a way I wanted my boys to be raised, black or not.

MARCELLE: My mom was also trying to protect us. By the time I was 15, I had grown bigger and looked a lot older than I was. Cops didn't see the good black boy my mom raised because 6'3, 290-pound black guys who aren't playing football are always up to no good. I had to deal with harassment, name-calling and on several occasions use of unjustified force. One time when I was 18, a cop punched me in the face.

What are your thoughts on the interactions between me and the police?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I'm very saddened, definitely angry at how you've been treated.

MARCELLE: You know, people have no idea, like, how that could affect you when, you know, I've had so many run-ins with the cops, mom, that it didn't just affect my relationship with the cops. It affected how I viewed society, maybe how I even treated, you know, white people. You know what I'm saying?

I don't hate anybody, but I begin to resent them in a sense that I felt like the cops were targeting me because they were trying to protect them.

The thought that you're a problem can really change you. It's even affected my confidence, walking down the street wondering if people see me as a suspect. The cops are public servants, so if they're profiling me, the public must be afraid of me. Just last summer, I was hanging out with my boys outside my house.

TYRONE: And we like chill - hanging out in front of - you know what I mean? - your crib, like.

MARCELLE: That's Tyrone. Suddenly, an unmarked car pulled up and rolled down its windows. I knew what time it was. I waved at the passengers. What's up, officers? How's everything going? But that wasn't what they wanted to hear. So they hopped out on us.

TYRONE: Asking if we have guns, drugs.

MARCELLE: They asked Tyrone if they could search his car. I was stunned by that because we were just minding our own business in front of my house.

TYRONE: So they then started to provoke us trying to get us to react.

MARCELLE: Everybody started cursing each other out, face-to-face, man-to-man. Eventually, I was able to turn things around because I have a golden ticket. My sister Liana is a cop.

I pulled out a badge she'd given me just to let them know my sister was internal affairs. That's the department where the police police themselves. The whole mood changed. Now they wanted to reason with me instead of being aggressive.

How did you feel when I told you about the incident when the cops were messing with me outside?

LIANA: It bothered me because, you know, here I am 30-feet from it not knowing what's going on and knowing that that interaction could've gone either way. It could've gone south very easily. It bothered me very much.

MARCELLE: OK. Well, how about this - do you remember telling me - breaking news that you were taking the police test?

LIANA: I don't really remember the exact moment that I told you.

MARCELLE: Even though it was six years ago, I remember it.

I was watching TV in your room, and you said - you said it in passing.

LIANA: I seem to remember that when I told you I think I made a excuse as to why. Well, you know it's a good job. And, you know, I was trying to soften the blow that I knew it would be to you.

MARCELLE: Did you ever, like, feel like you were switching sides?

LIANA: Switching sides?

MARCELLE: Well, I mean, I'm sure you know how I feel - you know, some of the - my feelings towards the cops in the past.

LIANA: I never really felt that I was on a side to switch. I mean, I don't feel like there's a side of cop versus civilian or us versus them. I think there's right and wrong.

MARCELLE: Not too long after Liana became a police officer, word on the street was she was actually patrolling our neighborhood. Apparently, she intervened when a couple of my boys got stopped by other cops. Yo, Jared, your sister is all right. When some real street cats confirmed what she was doing, I could no longer deny it. Liana was different. If only the NYPD had more officers like her.

CORNISH: Jared Marcelle is with Radio Rookies out of WNYC. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.