MN Police Officer’s Moving Story of Reconciliation Goes Viral
A Minnesota police officer's story of reconciliation is offering healing and hope in a time of desperate hurt.
May 25, 2020 marked 10 years since Justin Pletcher became a police officer. In a lengthy Facebook post, he shares how -- after graduating college, joining the army and serving in Kuwait and Iraq -- he returned to Minnesota hoping to join the Minneapolis police force. Instead, due to a "financial crisis," he ended up joining the Columbia Heights PD.
"For the next ten years," Pletcher shares in his post, "I learned what it was to truly become a police officer. It wasn’t about the tickets and the arrests, it was about the partnerships you made. Don’t get me wrong, I love the action of the job but it’s not what fuels me to make this world a better place."
He then goes on to share how -- on the same day he celebrated 10 years as a cop -- a Minneapolis man of color George Floyd was murdered at the hands of police. "There’s no other way to put this; this was a murder," he says. "I’ve watched the video so many times now, just trying to find some justification for the actions these men took, but I can assure you there are none."
Pletcher goes on to share how upset the video and Floyd's death made him -- both as an officer of the peace and as a white man. He admits to the disparity between life as a white man and life as a man of color in America. He apologizes for the deaths of other persons of color killed at the hands of those who serve to protect -- Philando Castille and Eric Garner and Sandra Bland and Tamir Rice. "I want to tell you that I wish I was the cop who encountered them," he says, "because maybe they’d be alive today."
Pletcher shares how on his first day back at work he could barely drag himself out of bed and put on his uniform, of how upset his fellow officers were and the conversations that ensued throughout the day. And then, Pletcher's post takes a beautiful turn as he shares a story from his day on patrol. Read it in full below:
My second dispatched call of the day today was a phone call. I called the number and a man named Calvin answered. Calvin said that he was a health inspector and that he would be inspecting some neighborhood homes today. Calvin said, “I’m a big black man with dreads,” and he wanted to make sure that police were aware in case we got a call about him walking around the neighborhood. Calvin asked that I come out there to verify his employment so I could squash any calls before they became something bigger. I obliged and I apologized to him for this even being necessary, but I told him I understood. Anyway, I arrived and we exchanged pleasantries when I noticed he had an Omega Psi Phi bracelet on, which is a black fraternity known as "Q." I told him my roommate in college was a Q, making the hand gestures, and that one of my officers now was a Q. Calvin smiled, I smiled, and all of a sudden the apprehension in the air immediately dissipated. He ended up knowing my college roommate pretty well, and we decided we would spend the next hour walking the neighborhood together. Calvin was about 15 years older than me, but we talked about how we both loved to travel and about our kids. We spoke about George Floyd and police brutality, and how it's a different world for black men. We talked about the importance of getting to know people and how racism is borne of fear and ignorance. Calvin spoke and I listened.
This second picture is of me and Calvin. At the end, we both said almost simultaneously how much we needed this today. We were both hurting and this was a small ray of light into a darkness that had covered us. We would have hugged but, being that we both believe in doctors and science, we elbow-bumped instead. We exchanged information and took this picture. An hour later my old college roommate texted me saying he heard I met Calvin and how happy that made him. Calvin then texted me a few hours after that saying that he believed things happened for a reason and that we would see each other again. I believe him. I'm not a religious guy and I mostly chalk things up to chance, but it really seemed that the universe was communicating today - at least to Calvin and me.
Pletcher concludes his post with an exhortation to all: listen.
I met Calvin today and I listened, and because of this I gained an ally and a friend. I know enough about change to know that you can’t tell people what to do, you need to listen to them and build change together.
Within just 16 hours the Facebook post has earned nearly 3k comments and been shared over 26k times.