Risk | Vulnerability

Ask the Expert: I am Concerned About Police Response to My Business During a Crime, Because I am a Black LGBTQ Owner. How Can I Protect Myself and My Business?

May 24, 2021 | 3 min read
Black business owner

Recently I was speaking with a Black LGBTQ woman who owns a business. “I don’t think I would call the police if my business were getting robbed,” she told me.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this; I’ve been asked this question more than once by marginalized people who are worried about contacting the police for help. Although I cannot understand the struggles faced by some minority business owners, I worry about victims who don’t feel like they’re able to report crimes. It breaks my heart to live in a day and age when that’s even a consideration.

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Should business owners from marginalized communities call the police to report a crime?

In a single word, yes. Some groups — like the Black and LGBTQ community — are suspicious of the police and other authorities due to media and recent events, but the stereotype of the bad cop is one that can hurt you, especially if you’ve been the victim of a crime.

First of all, I just want to state that the majority of police interactions and responses with all members of the public are overall favorable. Police have thousands of interactions on a daily basis with a wide range of people of varying demographics that go unnoticed and unheralded. Though negative incidents have been widely publicized in the media and communities, please remember there are so many unpublished events where police have saved people, solved crimes, and prevented castrophies.

Not all police officers are bad, just as not all police officers are good. But not all customers, patrons, citizens, people will be good either. Not every police officer is going to see eye to eye with the people they’re helping either. The best police officers are the ones who can put aside their personal beliefs and do their job — protecting you and your business. But also realize that not all police officers will be able to do this. This is not a justification, but just reality, that like any professional whether they be doctors, accountants, laborers or business owners, they are all human.

A rule of thumb I try to do is to focus on what we have in common more than what we don’t.

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If I’m wary of the police, what can I do?

Don’t wait until a crime occurs to contact law enforcement. In fact, do it now, before an incident happens. Get to know the officers in your area, the department, and their protocols for responding to an incident. If you’re concerned about the police who might be responding to your location, get to know their superiors, so you know who to call if there is a problem with the police. If you have a concern, mention it.

The burden of building these relationships should not just fall on you. Police departments should also be proactive when it comes to meeting the business owners in a community. Sometimes, police departments hold town halls and trainings. If yours does not, then gather other business owners and tell the police department you’d like a town hall to address concerns of prejudice in the police department or other issues.

While this may not be the full solution I find that developing relationships can help. With a better relationship, you’ll be better prepared to contact them if the need arises, and you may find you’re less concerned about dialing 911.

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