Retired police officer says 'brother in blue' code likely to blame for George Floyd's death.

Omar Delgado, a first responder at the Pulse nightclub mass shooting in 2016, still grapples with the nightmare. As shots were fired then, Delgado quickly moved bloodied victims outside. As he took cover, the firing continued. There were lifeless bodies everywhere. One of the survivors he helped was Angel Colon, who was shot six times. The two made headlines everywhere. I even interviewed them back then.

But despite Delgado's heroic actions, he was fired from the Eatonville, Florida police force the following year after developing post-traumatic stress disorder from the massacre—six months before his vested pension. He filed a lawsuit against the department, and he was eventually granted disability retirement, which was 42% of his $38,500 salary. Nowadays, former officer Delgado can't believe what our world has come to. In some ways, he says, things have become progressively worse.



Protesters are breaking windows, igniting fires and vandalizing properties in Minneapolis over the killing of George Floyd, who is a black man. A video surfaced of him struggling to breathe while the knee of a white police officer was pressed against his neck. You can hear Floyd repeating "I can't breathe," also voicing that he's about to die. Finally, when the officer released pressure, you can see Floyd's limp body on the pavement. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. "It's horrific. He couldn't breathe. It's not like he was tugging or fighting. It was extremely unnecessary," says Delgado. "My heart goes out to the family and his friends. To see that situation, it's just really, really bad."

Delgado wants people to know that not all officers are like Derek Chauvin. He believes those four officers that day put a bad name to the badge. "As a former police officer, and I'm Puerto Rican, it's frustrating and it's sad. But I wish people would not think every officer is the same way," he says. "I know there are officers out there right now who are thinking, 'I have to get up, I have to put this uniform on. I have to serve and protect, but you know what? I'm going to get shit for it because of them.'"


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Delgado mentions most things had to do with race when he was an officer. When they would call in, the first thing asked was the ethnicity of the driver. "I don't know why they were doing that. They always wanted to know. But why? I never understood," he says. "It really didn't matter what race they were."

During training, Delgado was always taught to subdue and contain the suspect. Once the person was in cuffs, the officer gauges if the individual is a threat. Sometimes they'll kick or spit, but Delgado doesn't believe there is ever a time an officer should use brutal force if a suspect is contained. "In my opinion, what should that officer have done? Once [Floyd] was on the ground and already contained, the officer should have picked him up and put him in the car. He shouldn't have been on him like that. It's absurd."

But Delgado feels training only goes so far. "We are in 2020 and I don't think it will ever get better. It hasn't happened yet. There will always be that persona of police brutality or injustice or something you think an officer should have done it differently. I still would love to know what [Chauvin] was thinking that moment. It doesn't make sense. And sadly, the man lost his life."
As for the other officers, Delgado thinks the "brother in blue code" may have applied here. "Those three other officers did not come to their senses and say, 'Enough is enough.' "There is this thing where they have the officer's back no matter what. But look what happened. They lost their jobs. They could have said, 'Stop, enough,' he says. "They didn't. It's terrible."

He admits that the brother in blue code of always having the back of another officer is a real thing, but common sense is more important. "Some officers don't have it. It doesn't look good. Those are the ones who shouldn't be officers," he says. "There was no need to be the tough guy, the macho man. The officer probably thought if he backed down, he would show weakness. Having weakness out on the streets as an officer is bad. But they should have shown brotherly love and professionalism. How many poor black people are treated like that on a daily basis? How many poor white people are treated like that? It happens a lot. This should be an eye opener."

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After the 2012 Trayvon Martin case, where an unarmed, black 17- year-old was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida, Delgado believes that's when police officers got a really bad reputation. The ensuing trial in 2013 acquitted George Zimmerman of second degree murder, which sparked national debate around gun violence and racism. "All these officers were then beating up black people. I couldn't believe it," says Delgado. But then the Pulse shooting occurred, he says, and people looked at the officers as heroes, and put them in a better light. Now, he believes, things have come full circle. "But that doesn't mean people should be looting, trashing and destroying other people's property," he says. "Why are they doing it? They're upset. They should be. I get it. But why damage other people's property that has nothing to do with it? I don't think that's the right way to voice an opinion."

Delgado isn't shy to voice his own opinions either. "It shouldn't be about race, but it's hard to paint that picture when you see what you see. But right away, everyone wants to put a title on racism," says Delgado. "Yes, it is a white officer and a black victim, but that's what makes it look like race. But if it's the opposite, do they ever smash out the race card? Are they in a hurry to pull out the race card if it was a black officer and a white victim. Would they? If it was hispanic, or asian, or another race? To me, it's a crime on an individual and a person."

Delgado was also labeled as a racist while he was an officer in his predominantly black town in Eatonville. "I've never been somebody who plays the race card. My grandfather was blacker than black. My mom is whiter than white. I never saw color. If you look at the history of Puerto Ricans, we are mixed with a whole bunch of people and race. People used to say, 'You're racist.' And I'd say, 'Really? I'm Puerto Rican.' Then I was fine," he says.

But people were quick to put labels on him, telling him that he was racial profiling. "I would say, 'Are you serious?' The whole town is almost black!'" he quips." Second of all, if I pulled that vehicle over, I sometimes can't tell who is even driving, since the windows are tinted. I pull over a vehicle at a high rate of speed. People are quick to lash out. But it doesn't mean I'm going to treat anyone differently. I'm going to treat everyone with the respect they deserve."

The best word to describe how Delgado is feeling lately is numb."I know how bad the world is through my own experience, witnessing all of it first hand. What gets me is that people are not learning from what's going on. You would think after all these incidents that have been happening, there would be more training to officers."

But the real question is how do things change?

"There are a lot of black chiefs of police out there. Do you start off at the top and give them more jobs? I don't know if officer [Chauvin] acted that way because [Floyd] was black. What I do know is the way that officer acted was totally unacceptable. He was wrong at every level," he says.

Delgado believes officers aren't protecting only whites or only blacks. They are protecting the community. When things like this happen, he realizes that the public has a difficult time trusting police again. "That is the most challenging part. You respect the profession because you know what they are there for, but when the profession fails you, that is a tough pill to swallow. I don't have all the answers, but I do know things need to change."

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Those of us raising teenagers now didn't grow up with social media. Heck, the vast majority of us didn't even grow up with the internet. But we know how ubiquitous social media, with all of its psychological pitfalls, has become in our own lives, so it's not a big stretch to imagine the incredible impact it can have on our kids during their most self-conscious phase.

Sharing our lives on social media often means sharing the highlights. That's not bad in and of itself, but when all people are seeing is everyone else's highlight reels, it's easy to fall into unhealthy comparisons. As parents, we need to remind our teens not to do that—but we also need to remind them that other people will do that, which is why kindness, empathy, and inclusiveness are so important.

Writer and mother of three teen daughters, Whitney Fleming, shared a beautiful post on Facebook explaining what we need to teach our teenagers about empathy in the age of social media, and how we ourselves can serve as an example.

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