Illustration by Max Fleishman

This black female officer has a few words for the cops who shot Alton Sterling

'If you are an officer...[and] you're afraid of people who don't look like you, you have no business in that uniform.'


Aaron Sankin


Published Jul 7, 2016   Updated May 26, 2021, 12:00 pm CDT

When Nakia Jones saw the video of police fatally shooting Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, something snapped. 

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The video, which showed two officers wrestle the 37-year-old African-American man to the ground and then shoot him at point-blank range, triggered spasms of anger across the internet. However, for Jones, the horrifying incident hit a little close to home. 

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On Wednesday, a seven-minute video of Jones talking directly to the camera went viral on Facebook Live—racking up over 3 million views. As an African-American female police officer who has served the Cleveland area for two decades, Jones had an impassioned message for police officers who harbor racial animus again minorities: “Take the uniform off.”

“If you are an officer…[and] you’re afraid of people who don’t look like you, you have no business in that uniform,” she said. “Take it off. If you’re afraid to go talk to an African-American female or male, or a Mexican male or female, because they’re not white like you, take the uniform off. Then take the uniform off. You have no business being a police officer.”

Jones said she watched the 39-second video (warning: graphic content) of Sterling being killed over and over and again, thinking about how it created tension between the police officers she knows—people who put their lives on the line every day to serve their communities—and the violence the officers in the video perpetrated on a man who looks like her sons.

“The reason why I became a police officer is to make a difference in people’s lives,” she said. “I knew what it was like to have a parent on drugs. I knew what it was like to watch people be picked on and bullied on and all kind of things. I said, ‘I want to make a difference. I want to be that change.’ So I became that change.”

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Jones says it pains her on a daily basis to see violence being committed by members of the predominantly African-American community she serves, but seeing that same type of senseless violence being carried out by police officers is far worse. 

“If you are white and you work in a black community and you are racist, you need to be ashamed of yourself,” she said. “You stood up there and took an oath. If this is not where you want to work at, then you need to take your behind somewhere else.” 

Jones said, after seeing the video, she considered quitting the force, but decided that being a positive role model serving the community is more important than ever. She urged people to speak up when they see cops behaving badly, complain to law enforcement and civilian officials—basically anyone who will listen.

Jones’s impassioned plea resonated across social media.

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Internet outrage over the Sterling shooting has already made some important people pay attention. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said on Wednesday the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division will be looking into Sterling’s death. 2016 Democratic presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton also said in a statement, “Something is profoundly wrong when so many Americans hase reason to believe that our country doesn’t consider them as precious as others because of the color of their skin.”


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*First Published: Jul 7, 2016, 3:37 pm CDT