BUFFALO, N.Y. — As we get further from Saturday’s shooting, the community continues processing their emotions.
Part of that is breaking down the arrest of alleged shooter Payton Gendron.
Many are still angry, believing that if the shooter were Black, he wouldn’t still be alive, but others are taking the arrest and using it as an example of textbook policing.
“Racism came to pick a fight with us," said Dewitt Lee, the co-founder of the Top Cop initiative. "We are going to be able to find a way to strike back the racism in a profound and an unconventional and a deliberate and intentional way.”
Lee, like so many others, wasn’t surprised when he found out the Tops shooter was taken into custody peacefully after allegedly killing 10 and injuring three.
“We've become almost accustomed to certain outcomes,” he said.
The alleged shooter was heavily armed and armored.
Police say when they got on scene, he put a gun to his own head, but they talked him down and took him into custody.
“They see a Black man and they're fearful for their life. They see a white man with an automatic weapon who just killed people and there’s no fear whatsoever," said Deacon Jerome Wright, the vice chair for VOICE Buffalo. "What is that? Racism, my sister. That is racism.”
That is a sentiment many in the community share.
“The narrative that we have of folks being able to disarm themselves, of folks being innocent until proven guilty...we only apply that to white people," said Kelly Camacho, a community organizer with Citizen Action. "That’s not really something Black and brown people get the benefit of the doubt with in our communities.”
“You can go to anybody in this community who’s ever been arrested and ask them how they were handled and they will tell you they were not handled with kid gloves like this guy," added Wright. "And they didn’t have a weapon. They didn’t kill anybody.”
Lee knows there’s history in this nation and in this city that continues tensions, but he sees the situation differently.
“What we watched take place here at Tops was the greatest display of policing for the world to raise its standards to meet, because they all were able to overcome fear and face fear and do their job,” said Lee.
He wants to use this as an example: Top Cop Procedure, something that can be used to train officers.
“Somehow, they were able to remain steadfast and they allow that arrest to take place without a bullet being flown, without a Taser being engaged,” Lee remarked.
In the worst-case scenarios, the Top Cop standard could be used as a legal protection.
“We're already arming civil rights lawyers, who are defending people who have been killed, shot, maimed, hurt by police officers who use fear as the reasoning of shooting them,” Lee said.
He’s working with people to try to roll this standard out, weed out people who should not be police officers and open more dialogue with police officers who want to do good.
“Whether it's a white officer, Black officer, no matter what color the officer is...but having more of that conversation and how we could both help each other out to be safe, to not have that fear," explained Franklin Crocker, a Buffalo resident.
“I think anyone who values what it means to be a police officer, I think they're going to welcome this challenge,” said Lee.
It's something this and so many communities need to see.
“Cops are not judge jury and executioner. They are cops," said Camacho. "That should be the extent of their power.”
“Here’s the phrase you can tell America: the status quo is about to go,” added Wright.
Dewitt is working with organizations in the U.S. and in Canada to get this standard rolled out in a wide basis.