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SBPD officer Darren Sims: "I don't go to work every day and say I want to be in a shooting"




SAN BERNARDINO, CA - JULY 12:  A message on a City of San Bernardino police car expresses community pride in historic Route 66, which runs through the city, on July 12, 2012 in San Bernardino, California. The San Bernardino City Council voted this week to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, making San Bernardino the second largest municipality in the nation ever to file for bankruptcy and the third in California to opt for bankruptcy in the past two weeks. Stockton, California with a population of nearly 300,000, became the biggest when it filed for bankruptcy on July 3. The Sierra Nevada Mountains ski town of Mammoth Lakes, California also voted for bankruptcy July 3. The city is facing a $45.8 million budget shortfall and is in danger of not making payroll for the next three months. City officials are set to discuss the next steps in the bankruptcy process and may also declare a fiscal emergency at its meeting July 16.  (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - JULY 12: A message on a City of San Bernardino police car expresses community pride in historic Route 66, which runs through the city, on July 12, 2012 in San Bernardino, California. The San Bernardino City Council voted this week to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, making San Bernardino the second largest municipality in the nation ever to file for bankruptcy and the third in California to opt for bankruptcy in the past two weeks. Stockton, California with a population of nearly 300,000, became the biggest when it filed for bankruptcy on July 3. The Sierra Nevada Mountains ski town of Mammoth Lakes, California also voted for bankruptcy July 3. The city is facing a $45.8 million budget shortfall and is in danger of not making payroll for the next three months. City officials are set to discuss the next steps in the bankruptcy process and may also declare a fiscal emergency at its meeting July 16. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
David McNew/Getty Images

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Now for the perspective from one law enforcement officer who we have heard from before.

Darren Sims is an officer with the San Bernardino Police Department. 

Last year, he told us about the challenges of being a black policeman - especially in San Bernardino where the majority of officers are white, and the majority of citizens are Latino.

Being black and having a badge has given him a unique perspective as cops face more scrutiny from communities of color.

Sims told A Martinez over the phone that after fatal shootings like the ones that occurred in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis last week, the job scrutiny has increased more than ever.

Getting out of a vehicle and going on a traffic stop... My job is obviously to enforce the law and make sure everyone's safe. I've pulled someone over a couple of times this week, I've gotten "My hands are on the steering wheel. Don't shoot me." The idea is that every time a cop pulls someone over now they may be shot. The idea that law enforcement is blood thirsty and out to kill people and that is completely un true.

On what he would say to set people's fears at easy during a routine traffic stop

I'd say, "My name is Officer Sims. I work the San Bernardino Police Department. I pulled you over for speeding," or "I pulled you over for a tail light," or "I pulled you over for running that stop sign. Do you have your license and registration?".... I try to use my verbal communication skills to lower tensions and help the process go smoothly. 

The racial epithets that he constantly hears as a black cop

I've accepted it as part of the job. I don't get upset at it. I think as I mature in this profession, I start to see things for what they are. I don't think that people are angry at police officers on an individual basis. I think people are angry and don't trust the uniform that we wear and what we stand for. When I go out there and someone yells a racial slur, they're not yelling at me. They're yelling at what I stand for. They don't like what I stand for. If we were in a store or I was off duty in plain clothes, would they have said that to me? And the answer nine times out of ten is no.

On whether police officers take on too many roles in the community

I think as a whole law enforcement officer, we take on a lot of responsibilities. Obviously there's a mental health issues. As police officers we contact subjects that have mental health issues... We have medical issues that we have to address and we have to cater to. There's a lot of different hats we have to wear as cops. And in my opinion it can stretch us thin. It seems like you have to be an expert in almost everything. We have to react almost perfectly all the time. And if we don't, the one time that we don't we're going to be scrutinized and laid out as a target by the media and by the community.

On what needs to be done to fix the void between police and the communities they serve

I think there has to be some work done on both sides. If someone is contacted by law-enforcement, and it can be something as minor as an infraction, for that officer's safety they're gonna give you verbal commands. And those verbal commands are going to be for your safety and his safety. The moment that you disobey those commands... you have committed a misdemeanor. That is not the time to debate it or fight your case ... On the other hand law enforcement, we have to slow down. We have to understand that there is some apprehension, especially with the black community. I'm not saying we have to do our job any less safe or any less safe, but we have to... go out to the football, we have to go out to the basketball games, we have to go out to the different sporting events... We have to show our face

On whether or not he's been stopped by police

I have been stopped. I was riding somewhere up in San Bernardino county and I get off the freeway and I got stopped by the police. I pulled over turned my lights off, turned my music off and he told me why he stopped me.... It was peaceful. It was perfectly fine. There was one thing that one of my buddies that I was with, he didn't like very much. He said, "Why is that officer touching is gun? Is he gonna shoot you?" No, our guns and out tools are on our belt and sometimes it's just really comfortable to keep our hands on those tools. It doesn't mean that we're trying to be aggressive or intimidating. I do it at work all time and I don't even realize it.

On what he tells those who are too scared of cops to ask for their help

I'd like to think that if anyone was in need of help and they needed us, that they would call us. Our job isn't about making people scared of us. Our job is to keep people safe. We're here to enforce the law. I don't go to work every day and say "I wanna be in a shooting." I don't. Force is a part of our job that is ugly and raises a lot of questions, but it's a necessary part of our jobs to keep ourselves safe.

Answers have been edited for clarity.

To hear the full conversation, click the blue player above.