Los Angeles Police Officer Deon Joseph, who wrote a viral letter to LeBron James asking to meet after the NBA star targeted a police officer on social media, spoke out Tuesday explaining the reason he decided to reach out to James and request a sit-down talk.
Joseph, who is known by some on Skid Row as “Angel Cop,” told Fox News in an interview that everybody is hurting and separated right now, and the last thing that we need is to widen the chasm between people. So in a letter that went viral, Joseph requested a sit-down meeting with LeBron James to talk with him about the realities of police work.
“I don’t want to call him irrational,” James told Fox. “If I wasn’t a police officer, and all I saw 24/7 on social media and on the radio was that the police are out to get black people, police hate people of color — and they’re repeating that over and over again — I’d probably feel the same way. So I was LeBron James before I became a police officer.”
Joseph said that he doesn’t want people to think of him as “calling out” James.
“I’m about hoping that we can sit down like men and have a civil conversation, and understand and humanize each other. That’s the main reason that I reached out the way that I did,” said Joseph, who was notably surrounded by L.A. Lakers gear. “I think he’s a good human being. The things he’s done for children I think is incredible, and man, when people were giving him flack, I was like, ‘Dude, this is a good dude right here.’”
“Now of course I didn’t like what he said,” added Joseph. “But I feel like, in my heart, that there’s hope — if not he and I — maybe what I’ve done can spark dialogue across the nation where cops and communities can start sitting down again and humanize each other once again. That’s so important.”
Growing up, Joseph hated police officers. In an interview with Liberty University last year, Joseph said that before joining the force, he was “indoctrinated to hate, fear, and loathe law enforcement.” His perspective, he recalled, was influenced by what was around him, by “watching the Rodney King incident” on loop, by listening to “F*** the police” in his Nissan Sentra, and just hanging out with an anti-police activist crowd.
“Every day was this steady indoctrination that the police were our enemies,” he said.
But after the L.A. riots, when Joseph said he couldn’t find work anywhere else, he decided to give the police department a chance.
“I discovered that 90% of what was told to me by friends and family was not true,” Joseph told Liberty last year. “I was able to freely express how African Americans felt to my white and Hispanic classmates, and they were open and receptive. My whole idea of police work changed after that, and I became addicted to serving, watching my fellow officers from all walks of life help people, rescue people, and save lives.”
Over his more than two decades in law enforcement, Joseph developed a reputation for his compassion for the people of Skid Row, an area with rampant homelessness. After an officer-involved shooting occurred in the area — and after “agitators” began spreading rumors about the incident — Joseph told Liberty University that he visited the area to talk to people about what had happened.
“I didn’t run away. I became like family to this community, so I’m going to go out there to my family, and I’m going to walk and I’m going to talk with them,” said Joseph. “And as I did this, I discovered that 75% of the people I talked to were like, ‘We understand what you did. That guy was crazy’…They understood.”
“And the ones that didn’t, I stood tall, ten-toes down, and I had dialogue with them, and I said, ‘Hey, if you were in this situation what would you do?’ And eventually, they all agreed, ‘You know what, yeah, we probably would have done the same thing.’ And it completely stopped that Ferguson Effect. So that’s what I do. You become like family, they’re willing to listen to you, and that’s what I encourage a lot of law enforcement officers to do. Don’t run, I know it’s hard, I know you feel like a beast at every feast, but we can’t give up in showing who we are in our heart,” said Joseph.
Read Joseph’s full letter to LeBron James below:
I am not going to come at you from a place of hatred. There will be no name calling. I was raised to see the whole of a human being. Not to hyper focus on their flaws or make said flaws the whole of who they are. I’m an honest man.
What you do for children, and other acts of charity shows a huge heart. You show to be a family man, and that’s to be respected. You play for the team my family has cheered for since the 1960s, then myself since 1979. But… Your current stance on policing is so off base and extreme. Your tweet that targeted a police officer in Ohio who saved a young woman’s life was irresponsible and disturbing. It showed a complete lack of understanding of the challenge of our job in the heat of a moment. You basically put a target on the back of a human being who had to make a split second decision to save a life from a deadly attack.
A decision I know he and many others wish they never had to make. Especially when it involves someone so young.
Instead of apologizing, you deflected. You said you took your tweet down because you did not want it to be used for hate, when the tweet itself was the embodiment of hatred, rooted in a lack of understanding of the danger of the situation.
I don’t know if this will ever reach you, but my hope is that one day I can sit down with you and talk. As a man of faith, I can have no hatred toward you. But I do feel I can help you understand the reality of the profession of policing, and that there is another side you need to hear. You are tired of Black folks dying? So am I. You hate racism and police brutality? So do I. But you cannot paint 800,000 men and women who are of all races, faiths, sexual orientations and are also mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, preachers, coaches, community members and just human with such a broad and destructive brush.
Unlike some who have dug their heals in the belief that police are inherently evil, I think if you yourself actually sat down and had a real honest and open conversation with a cop, there is a strong chance you may discover we are not the monsters you have come to believe we are, who deserve the hate and distain you have.
And even if you come away feeling the same way, I could respect it, because at least you gave the other side your ear instead of only hearing one narrative.
The offer is on the table Lebron. No cameras. No fanfare. Just two men who care talking. I know it’s a long shot. But this division and hatred must stop. It’s clear based on rising crime in marginalized communities that cops and the community need to build bridges to save lives on all sides. That cannot be done through the demonization of any group of people.
Just putting it out in the universe brother. Even if not me, please take the time to talk to a police officer instead of judging them. No shade. Thanks for all the positive things you do.
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