After thirteen months as a patrol officer for the Atlanta Police Department (APD), Officer Quincy’s partner, Chuck, was assigned to another duty and Quincy was partnered with a second officer, whom he called Roy. Roy, unlike his previous partner, was white. Roy, Quincy said, was a “good old country boy from South Georgia” who had moved to Atlanta less than a year before joining the police force. Despite having little in common with Roy, Quincy got along well with his new patrol partner and appreciated Roy’s sense of humor, which was dark and dry.
Feeling that he was adjusting to being a police officer in his second year on the force, Quincy tried not to focus on the negatives he saw all around him, most notably his perception that the APD assumed the majority of crime in the city was committed by African-Americans. But not long after his new partner joined his patrol route, Quincy witnessed something he couldn’t just ignore.
“I went up to a section of HQ (headquarters) where you turn in your paperwork and other stuff for cases and walked in where several white Atlanta police officers were sitting and talking while they waited their turn to hand in their papers. And every other word they said was a racial slur against blacks and Hispanics. They were using the ‘N’ word like it was nothing, like it had no meaning at all. I recognized one of the guys as a member of my graduating class from the police academy. So I pulled him to the side and said, ‘Man, it’s really not cool to be saying those kinds of things. One day a black officer might have your back in the field, and is he still gonna be an ‘N’ word when he saves your life?’ The guy looked at me and poked his finger into my chest. ‘Don’t get in the way of who I am, Quincy, or it could wind up being real bad for you. You know what I mean?’ And it dawned on me: this guy was threatening me. I walked out of the room and down the hall to the bathroom. I had to splash cold water on my face ’cause I suddenly wanted to go back and open fire on that jerk. He’s gonna threaten me? I know how to take care of that kind of disrespect. But I just went back to work and tried to put it out of my mind.”
That wasn’t the only time Officer Quincy heard racist remarks being made by his fellow officers. He once heard a black lieutenant referring to a suspect by a derogatory term for Hispanics:
” I must have done a double-take when I walked by and heard that, because the LT (lieutenant) stopped long enough to grin and say to me, ‘You know how those illegals are. Ain’t that right,Quincy?’ I couldn’t even speak. I just kinda nodded and walked off like it was no big deal. But this was a commanding officer! And he was saying that kind of nonsense? It made me feel sick inside.”
The breaking point for Officer Quincy came three weeks before he celebrated his third anniversary with the Atlanta police. As he entered one of the officer break rooms, he heard two fellow patrol officers engaged in a discussion about how to report a shooting that had taken place on their patrol earlier in the week.
“One of the guys said to the other, ‘So then you back me and say he pulled a knife. And I’ll say he charged you. We stick with that and they can’t charge us with anything. The whole thing winds up being righteous. But we gotta say the same thing or they’ll turn it over to IAD (Internal Affairs Division) and then it’s over for both of us. We don’t need that.’ It hit me right then and there: these guys are fabricating a story to stay out of trouble because they knew they had shot a guy without justification. And I realized I had to get out of that place once and for all or I was gonna either wind up becoming just another dirty cop or eating my gun. A week later I resigned. Best thing I ever did for myself. Probably the only reason I’m alive today.”
Life hasn’t been easy for Quincy since leaving the Atlanta Police Department. He had trouble finding a job after resigning so suddenly. And the job he finally got doesn’t pay nearly as much or have benefits.
“Basically I’m a glorified janitor. They call it a ‘cleaning technician,’ but I’m just a custodian who cleans offices in downtown Atlanta. But I’m thankful for the chance to work at a job where I don’t feel like a hypocrite when I leave the office at the end of the day. A friend asked me the other day if I regret leaving the police force. And I told him not for a minute. I’m just sorry the whole system seems to be so damn messed up. I pray for those guys on the force every single day. I pray God will change their hearts and make them better people. And I pray God will forgive me for ever being a part of all that.”
At the end of my last interview with Quincy, I watched as he walked towards his car. He seemed to be standing taller, walking with more purpose than I had seen in previous weeks. Maybe it was just a trick of the light, but he appeared to be smiling, as if a weight had been lifted off him.