DENVER — For many police officers across the country, the last year since the killing of George Floyd has been one of reflection, especially for Black officers.
"This badge means to me a lot. It is a heavy responsibility," said Wilbur Murray, Denver Police Department (DPD) District Two community outreach officer. "In one sense, it is a burden, and in another sense, it is a sense of pride. With everything that is going on in life and me being a man of color, it is a burden because I still wear two hats, and those hats, you know, you get questioned on why you do what you do and get called all sorts of names, but you have to stand firm in your beliefs."
Carla Havard, DPD sergeant and president of Black Police Officers Organization, says other officers feel the same.
"A ton of our membership has always said that we're too Black to be blue, and we're too blue to be Black. Are you a police officer or are you Black first? You know, in my opinion, it's not a choice to be made" Havard said.
But through the last year of protests and demand for justice across Denver, they know they’re in the right place to implement the change they want to see from the inside.
"This uniform comes with a responsibility and a heavy burden, and that responsibility is to show them that we can make changes. We can get this equality that we are fighting for," Murray said.
At the same time, with an increase in officers deciding to leave police departments across the country, Havard says those who decide to stay are willing to create a better culture.
"Those who do want to change the system, I'm certainly a fan of them getting out of the system because policing should not just be about punitive. It should be about the process in which we encourage, we mentor and we certainly reach out to communities that we have been oppressing through our processes for centuries," Havard said.
Increased outreach and honest conversations are key.
"So 20, 30 years from now, our children won't be saying we still have to march for our rights," Havard said.
It's all in the hope that no more innocent lives are lost.