A Black Police Officer Tells His Story

Corey Saffold presents ShopTalk in Waukesha

What is it like to be a cop, and black?

When a white state trooper pulled over a black off-duty Madison police officer, Corey Saffold, what did the trooper assume about the man with dreadlocks and a gun – officer Saffold’s service pistol – on the passenger seat?  What did the trooper do next?

Corey Saffold black police officer in MadisonSaffold shares this and other experiences, both in and out of uniform, as part of his ShopTalk, The Paradox of Being a Black Police Officer Today.  Saffold opens his events with video of several police shootings of unarmed black men.  He then talks his audience through what he sees in the videos, and his understanding of why these shootings took place.  The unjust violence and bias in the videos beg us to ask the question suggested in Saffold’s talk’s title — why, as a black man, Saffold chooses to do the work of policing today. 

Saffold’s ShopTalk combines personal history with insights into police training and the work he does in a Madison high school, and out in the community.  He quickly opens a space for discussion in which audience members feel comfortable sharing stories of police encounters of their own.  Many have questions about how police do their jobs, about what they have seen on social media, and what citizens can do to make communities safe for everyone.  Saffold responds candidly with knowledge gained during his six years on the Madison police force, and makes sure that everyone is respectfully heard.

Jarett Fields at a Corey Saffold talk about police in MilwaukeeAt one event in Milwaukee, a woman recalled becoming terrified of police when she was a child, after seeing an officer chase and beat a black boy in her neighborhood. 

After an event in Madison, an audience member contacted Saffold to share:

          We are adoptive parents of black children and work to balance all the current media coverage and advice everyone has for us… Fear was primarily leading my thoughts towards police. This was before I had the privilege to hear you speak… I made the mistake of getting caught up with the social media hype surrounding the arrest at East Towne [in Madison]. I re-posted the video with an angry and emotional reaction. I was called out by a former State Patrol Officer. I learned my lesson!!! Again, I appreciate your perspective and have changed my use and consumption of social media. It is not the forum to really connect with people or to change minds or social systems!

Corey Saffold’s ShopTalk has been hosted by communities large and small around Wisconsin. In fact, he has been invited to speak more times than any of our other ShopTalk presenters. We don’t have to tell you that racial divisions and inequity are serious issues in Wisconsin. Our current issue of On, a quarterly humanities publication, is dedicated to the topic of race (this article was first published in On: Race).

The Wisconsin Humanities Council was created over 40 years ago to help people use the humanities to knowledgeably engage current public policy issues. Today, we renew this commitment as we seek new ways to welcome every Wisconsinite’s participation in crucial civic discourse.  If you have a project, or an idea, we encourage you to check out our current Request for Proposals: Using the Humanities to Focus on Race and Ethnicity in Wisconsin.

Check our calendar frequently and follow us on Facebook  to find out about upcoming ShopTalk events with Corey Saffold and our other presenters.  ShopTalk events are free to host and free to attend.

There are more than 40 different explorations of work, making a living and making a life in our ShopTalk catalog. Consider bringing a member of our ShopTalk to your community! 

Making a living and making a life


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2 Responses

  1. Kathleen Orosz says:

    As usual, the Humanities Booyah is stimulating and brings information that I see nowhere else in media.
    In our current climate this topic adds a perspective outside of other written material I have seen. Keep it up!

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