Everyone is entitled to a courteous explanation as to why they have been spoken to by police.
For a number of reasons, there has been a breakdown in this process and in the overall evolution of police and community engagements.
From a community perspective, this is a very sensitive topic. For a person of colour, there is no greater insult than to be targeted by someone or discriminated against based on the colour of your skin. They want police officers to know that historic context and previous experiences (first person or otherwise) have a legitimate impact on existing relationships. They want police officers to know that these factors can cause some people, especially young people, to respond with anxiety and not cooperate when approached by police. They want police to be forthcoming with information so they can understand the motives for the engagement. They want to know why a police officer selected one person and not the other. They want to have a meaningful and trusted relationship with the police because they know their neighbourhoods will not be safe without it.
From a policing perspective, this is a very sensitive topic. For a police officer, there is no greater insult than to be labelled a racist. They want the community to understand they serve and protect irrespective of race, colour, creed, religion, age, sex and/or sexual orientation, etc. They do not dispute that there have been and continue to be examples of policing that has been driven by bias. They feel that they have been and continue to be tainted as a profession by these allegations, proven or otherwise. They do not feel the media reports adequately account for or consider the additional factors that impact on their day-to-day activities. They want to have a meaningful and trusted relationship with the community because they know they cannot do their job without it.
In an effort to bridge the gap between these two perspectives, we need to remember that every single person has pre-existing, implicit biases. That is, instantaneous judgements that we make about other people. This does not make you a racist; displaying these implicit biases through explicit actions, does. Learning to recognize, manage and understand our implicit biases can and should be a lifelong activity.
The foundation for every interaction between a police officer and the public is respect, no matter how difficult or intimidating. Most importantly, there is only one professional in these interactions and, that is the police officer.