Deon Joseph, a well-known Los Angeles Police Department officer, explained during an interview on Wednesday why he wrote a letter reaching out to NBA star LeBron James after James targeted a police officer on social media, saying he hopes to change James’ mind about the police because continuing to demonize law enforcement ends up hurting minority communities over time.
Joseph said that he used to view the police the same way that James did because of the music that he listened to, an activist group he joined when he was young, and prior negative encounters that he had with law enforcement.
“You know, I’m tired of vitriol. I’m tired of the demagoguery against police officers and it’s so broad and it’s also dangerous because as that’s happening, we have political figures who are buying off on it,” Joseph said. “You know, I don’t mind Joe on the corner, on social media all day watching collages of cop hate videos is upset. But when we start hearing our politicians espousing the same rhetoric, that’s when it’s time to be concerned.”
“And what they end up doing is tire tying our hands over time, and actually hurting people of color in some of the most marginalized communities that we we signed up to serve and protect as well,” he added.
STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS HOST: All right. A Los Angeles law enforcement consultant is calling foul on LeBron James’ now-deleted tweet the targeted an Ohio police officer involved in a deadly shooting. In an open letter to LeBron James, Deon Joseph invites him to sit down and have a conversation with him on the matter, writing, ‘the tweet itself was the embodiment of hatred rooted in a lack of understanding of the danger of the situation. The offer is on the table LeBron, no cameras, no fanfare, just two men who care talking. This division and hatred must stop.’ LeBron has yet to respond. But the ball is now in his court. And Deon Joseph, who wrote that open letter to LeBron James joins us live right now. Deon, good morning to you.
DEON JOSEPH, POLICE OFFICER: Good morning. How are you?
DOOCY: I’m great. Thank you very much. Why did you write this?
JOSEPH: Well, I wrote it for several reasons. But one of the reasons is, I felt really horrible for that officer … in Ohio who had to make a really tough decision, especially with a young lady who was so young. And I said to myself, that actually could have been me four times in my career, I was almost in a deadly shooting, like literally this close. And I remember one time, it was a young man who was about 19 years old, I’m off duty. And I’m seeing people run away from this guy screaming that he had a gun, and I was this close to shooting that man. And I thought, if I would have shot that young man, everything that I’ve done in my career, to try to help the homeless, to try to put them into housing, to try to create an environment conducive to change, to bring awareness to help women in Skid Row, that would have been thrown out the window because someone like him who has so much power, so much prestige and influence, could easily turn 50 million human beings against this hard working blue collar guy who’s going to end up being the most hated man in America. So, that’s one good reason why I really wanted to step up and to start speaking up for the vast majority of decent offices just doing a tough job.
DOOCY: Sure and when you look at what we know, so far, regarding that incident, in Columbus, Ohio, which prompted LeBron James to put up that tweet that got you going, and inviting him to sit down with [you], had you been that police officer in the same situation, what would you have done?
JOSEPH: I probably would have done the same thing. My goal is to save lives. Like I said, every morning, I pray that I never, ever, have to take a life. And once again, I feel so sorry for the family of that young lady. But unfortunately, the officer had to try to save a life in a split second … and people don’t understand how fast these things happen. They really have to understand how fast they happen.
DOOCY: You told one of the foxnews.com people you said, I was LeBron James before I became a police officer. What does that mean?
JOSEPH: … I was a young, African American male in society. And when I came up, I came up in the late 80s and 90s and early 90s. So that was a very violent and turbulent time. But also, it was a time of anti-police sentiment where, you know, we had the Rodney King incident … and all these other things. And all my family and friends, we kind of had to share this monolithic view that all police were inherently our enemy. They were our natural enemy. I mean, I joined the activist group in high school that all we talked about was how bad the police were and this and that, and, you know, and also, I was just bombarded at the time with Hollywood movies that depict the cops in a negative light. My favorite rap groups were NWA, Public Enemy, … they were guiding me. It’s almost like a steady indoctrination, to the thought that all police are bad enough. And also I had a couple of negative encounters with police that didn’t sit well and help me made me forget about the good contacts, because you never remember the good, you always remember the trauma. And my mind changed when I had no choice but to be a police officer. I did not want to be a cop. But once I stepped across that line, I discovered that the vast majority of police officers are just hard working decent human beings from all walks of life. And that 90% of what’s said about police officers is just not true. We’re not perfect. Yes, there’s a negative exception. But there’s an honorable rule to them that we need to talk about them as well, to get balance.
DOOCY: And Deon, that exactly is why you want LeBron James, to reach out to you. You guys just sit down, no cameras, no nothing, just so that you can explain to him what goes on in your squad car and what the average police officer faces in a day because as you pointed out, there have been times in your career where you have to make a split second decision that could impact the rest of your life.
JOSEPH: Absolutely. Absolutely. That’s all I want is to humanize each other. You know, I’m tired of vitriol. I’m tired of the demagoguery against police officers and it’s so broad and it’s also dangerous because as that’s happening, we have political figures who are buying off on it. You know, I don’t mind Joe on the corner, on social media all day watching collages of cop hate videos is upset. But when we start hearing our politicians espousing the same rhetoric, that’s when it’s time to be concerned. And what they end up doing is tire tying our hands over time, and actually hurting people of color in some of the most marginalized communities that we we signed up to serve and protect as well.
DOOCY: Sure, and Deon, it’s not just politicians. I’ve read reports about the Oscar cast. I didn’t watch the Oscars. But apparently there were a number of people who were talking about police and it was not favorable.
JOSEPH: Yes, I heard that too. And it was disheartening, because prior to this new wave of anti police mentality, a lot of these celebrities have relationships with police officers, they knew officers, they had police officers that are security and body guards, and we would stand by and protect them at their events. And it was just unfortunate that these once again, these people who have influence, well intended, but not informed, you know, and when you don’t talk to the other side, you know, and you buy into a one sided narrative about any group, that can be dangerous, you can end up putting not just cops in danger, but also the public that we’re trying to help as well.
DOOCY: Deon, I think it would be great if LeBron James took you up on your offer. And not only just sit, sit down and talk about your job and what people in uniform face, but it would be great if you could take him on a ride around, a ride along, so he could see what you do. He could interface with the people you see every day, what’s the one thing he would see that he does not know right now?
JOSEPH: Well, I think he would see the relationships that we do have, you know, if you step away from the TV set, if you step away from your smart device, you’ll see that relationship I have with the community I serve, they’re like my family, you know. I’m in a pandemic, and I have to stop some homeless person from trying to kiss me on the cheek now because, you know, because I don’t want the coronavirus again. But, uh, but you know, to see that, you know, we do care about the people we serve, sometimes we don’t have time to show it. Look, when crime is high, like it’s getting right now, a police officer only has time to show you what he does. But when we’re able to work together with the community and build relationships and drive crime down, we can show who we are. Now I’ve been able to master the art of both. But I would like to work with someone like LeBron, who has some influence, who can influence all communities together, meet with police, again, to create this synergy where, you know, they understand the job we have. And also they can hear from us that we do care about them and want to make things better. We may not always agree, but there’s no hatred in our hearts towards any sector of the community. You know, it’s just some communities may be worse than others that would need our attention. But their skin is not their sin, disparity doesn’t always equal bias. You know, sometimes it’s just the data that drives us to the community. When you have 20 people getting stabbed on one block, we have to be there. And if we’re not people die.
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