Just Show Me Your Hands
by Natalie Boyd
Our World is not Black and White, But Our Problems Are.
Natalie Boyd is a former police officer, concerned citizen, single mom and author of her debut book, Just Show Me Your Hands, in which she discusses policing in America, In her thought-provoking writing Natalie challenges Americans to look beyond the rhetoric of the news media and politicians and consider another side of the story – that of a police officer. Recently I had the opportunity to ask Natalie about her experiences and about writing her first book.
Following are my questions and Natalie’s responses.
MJ: Something that surprised me in your book was the number of times you went to a call alone. Maybe I’ve watched too many cop shows but I thought police always have a partner. Is this typical? Why would you be sent alone?
Natalie: Throughout my career as a police officer I rode alone. The only exception was in the beginning of my career when I had to fill the time required with a field training officer. This was true for all officers in the department. If we needed back up the officer in the adjoining sector would respond. I worked with quality officers so I always knew I had back up if I needed it.
Is this typical in other departments? In my opinion, I would say it is in departments without the financial resources to do otherwise. This is one of the reasons it is so hard to listen to people asking to defund the police. It takes a lot of money to put an officer on the street. People want well trained officers but they do not consider the expense that comes along with that. Your question points out how the lack of financial support affects the officer on the street.
MJ: Your story points to a number of issues – mental health, substance abuse, racism, cultural & political divide, and Police and Community. Considering not all can be fixed, what would you say is number 1 and would benefit this country the most?
Natalie: That is a great question, it is very difficult to say one issue is more important since one can lead to another. The mistake we make in my opinion is trying to fix the issues from the bottom up instead of from the top down. The leaders set the tone and have the power to make a change. One of the important things I mention in my book is divide and conquer. So to answer your question, if I had to choose one, I would say at this time our country would benefit the most by cleaning up our politics.
The reason I chose this one is there are people to police the police. Despite the news coverage the police protect the community. There are laws against racism but no one is policing our highest court. There are no laws preventing people with criminal backgrounds from running for the president of the United States. We have people in places of power that not only have no moral compass or self respect but also appear beyond unqualified to work the most basic job never mind being a politician. What would benefit our country is not waiting for election day to punish a politician that is not acting with the highest standards and professionalism in doing their job in serving Americans. In my opinion they can take it a step further and not only act professional but how about just do your job and do it quietly.
Some of our politicians are running around fighting for money and power instead of for the American people. The change needs to start at the top. Put laws in place to protect who can run for president, add mental health evaluations and repeated drug testing for all politicians. If politicians were fired for the same reason a police officer would be fired I think we would be moving in the right direction. Police are not allowed to accept gifts, they cannot lie or act in any unethical way on or off duty. They are subject to mental health evaluations and continuous drug testing. Just this simple step would clean up politics in a big way.
MJ: You have written on important subjects that many are aware of but have more pressing (in their view, perhaps) issues. How do we keep these issues in the conversation? What’s the next step? Do you have plans to further the conversation?
Natalie: I touched on a lot of subjects but starting on the top I understand people are just tired of politics. It’s not normal that they are in our daily life. That is the politicians way of staying relevant and raising money. Maybe they look for how many likes they get, either way social media should not be a place for politics. The pressing issues in most people’s life is taking care of themself and family. Being able to afford food and housing would be at the top of most peoples list. Just like with climate change it showed up because we weren’t paying attention.
If we do not pay attention not only will the things we value be out of our reach but we won’t have the basic things we need. If we do not pay attention our true enemies will step in while we are busy fighting among ourselves. It seems to me these issues will stay in the conversation because they keep happening. The true conversation needs to be how do we take steps to resolve them. I would really like to continue the conversation because I feel it’s very important not only for us but for future generations. So that being said, Thank you for your well thought out questions.
MJ: It’s hard work to write a book and get it published. Obviously you felt it important enough to put the effort in. What drove you to write this book? And what made you continue? How long did it take?
Natalie: When I started writing this book it was because of my observations as a police officer. I learned things that I had never realized or even thought about prior to being a police officer. As I was writing this book issues involving police and racism were making headlines. Some of the things I was hearing people say about the police just hit me at my core. I realized just like me prior to working as an officer, people had a complete lack of understanding of just what it takes to do the job to the best of your ability. It’s not a job that allows mistakes.
The most frustrating part was watching the public and the news media trying to put every situation in a neat little box with the same label. As I said in my book, I can tell no two situations are the same. All the issues I wrote about were in some way connected and as an officer you deal with all of it. So I guess what drove me to write this book was the eye opening experience of being a police officer. The book took me 3 years to finish, not to write. I put it down many times and would walk away. What made me continue was my Dad. I am so lucky to have a dad that has always been my biggest fan. I certainly would not have completed the book if it wasn’t for his never ending support and encouragement.
MJ: This is your first book. What advice would you give to someone embarking on a new project such as this?
Natalie: Be prepared for when you finish the book, have a support system that works for you. The best advice is don’t give up.
I recommend this book to anyone willing to consider different perspectives of police in America. In the final chapter, Natalie offers concrete steps that can be taken to address issues such as the effects of the mental health crisis on policing, funding, culture, and training. Perhaps if people are willing to look with an open mind, Americans can work toward solutions.
Pick up a copy on Amazon, it’s a short but informative read.
To contact Natalie with questions or comments, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.