It should surprise absolutely no one that police are out here trying to police the way Black people feel about police.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Las Vegas Police Protective Association posted a 30-second video that showed District Judge Erika Ballou, a Black woman, talking to a Black defendant during a hearing on July 11 and, apparently, they have their tight blue-and-whities all in a bunch because the judge chose to be straight forward and talk to a Black person like he was kin.
“You’re a Black man in America, you know you don’t want to be nowhere where cops are,” Ballou says in the video. “…You listen to me, you know you don’t want to be nowhere where cops are. Because I know I don’t, and I’m a middle-aged, middle-class Black woman. I don’t want to be around where the cops are because I don’t know if I’m going to walk away alive or not.”
It doesn’t really matter what this hearing was about—if you’re Black, you recognize what’s going on here. This is a Black woman on her “auntie” steez refusing to code-switch while performing the ancient African American art of “telling it like it is” to a Black man who needs to do better. And she’s being real about Black people’s anxiety and feelings of unsafety in the presence of police. It’s a conversation that usually happens in the confines of a Black space, only this time, it took place in a courtroom where cops, conservatives and, more to the point, white people could witness.
And we know what happens when white people discover the conversations we Black people have amongst ourselves—they get real fragile.
So, the union got all in its feelings and accused Ballou of disparaging law enforcement calling her comments “unethical and irresponsible.”
“They all felt horrible that a judge would make the inference that if this judge was hanging around police, that she may not make it out with her life,” Union President Steve Grammas told the Review-Journal. Of course, it likely never occurred to Grammas or the cops he’s speaking for that if even a Black district judge feels this way about law enforcement, there might me something to it.
“I support proper law enforcement,” Ballou said in a statement in response to the union calling for her resignation. “What the record shows, is that I communicate with those who appear before me in a manner that is straight-forward and understandable.”
While the police union is crying its salty blue tears over Ballou’s “just keeping it real” moment, the Las Vegas chapter of the NAACP has the judge’s back.
“Her statements reflect not only her truths but also the community’s truth,” the chapter said. “People of color and African Americans, in particular, are disproportionally killed by police.”
The union is claiming Ballou violated the Nevada Code of Judicial Conduct, which requires judges to “aspire at all times to conduct that ensures the greatest possible public confidence in their independence, impartiality, integrity, and competence”—a position the union never would have taken if she was blindly praising police and disparaging the defendant.
The NAACP called the union’s opinion a “misplaced reliance” on the Code of Judicial Conduct and an “attempt to distract the public from the truth regarding police shootings of people of color in Clark County.”
Neither the union’s nor the NAACP’s statements provide many details about the case outside of it being a probation revocation hearing, but the NAACP statement indicated an altercation with police that ended in the defendant being arrested.
“It is our position that Judge Ballou imposed the adequate sentence while counseling the defendant that he ‘should have walked away,’” the NAACP said. “Nothing in Judge Ballou’s statements were untrue and the LVPPA’s position on this issue reflects its defensiveness based partly on the fact that the truth hurts.”
And there it is—The. Truth. Hurts.