STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
We're at the very start of the NFL season. Everybody starts with a clean slate. All the standings say no wins, no losses - except for the Philadelphia Eagles, who had a single win last night, and the Falcons, who lost that game 18-12. There is some leftover business from prior seasons, player protests. One Eagles player sat toward the end of the national anthem last night. Nobody kneeled. NBC aired an ad featuring Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco player who protested police killings.
(SOUNDBITE OF AD)
COLIN KAEPERNICK: Don't become the best basketball player on the planet. Be bigger than basketball. Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.
INSKEEP: The Fraternal Order of Police denounced the Nike ad, saying the public understands when law enforcement is being insulted. The National Black Police Association had a different response, and Sonia Pruitt is its chairperson. She's on the line.
SONIA PRUITT: Good morning.
INSKEEP: Do you agree that this ad insults police?
PRUITT: Not at all. It's our job to protect the rights of the public to peacefully protest.
INSKEEP: To peacefully protest, meaning it's fine with you if Kaepernick is protesting police killing.
INSKEEP: Would you explain why that would be? - because you have two different police organizations here. You have this broader Fraternal Order of Police who sees an insult here. The Black Police Association does not.
PRUITT: Well, I can explain that partly because, as black officers, we live in two worlds. We're the police, and we understand that world. But we're also citizens of the African-American community, so we understand that world and the context of policing in our history as well.
INSKEEP: How is that debate reflected in the day-to-day lives of police? There must be times that there's a black and a white officer in the same squad car for hours on end, and this subject comes up.
PRUITT: You know, the great thing about being human is that you should be able to live or coexist and have differences of opinions. When it comes down to it, if we do have a difference of opinion, sometimes it's hard to overcome that. We should be open to conversation, which I don't think we're having at the level that we should in police departments right now, though.
INSKEEP: If there are those two cops in the same squad car, they might just kind of just not bring up the topic?
PRUITT: That is absolutely correct because, you know, people want to work in comfort in a job that is as critical and as challenging as ours.
INSKEEP: So how is it, broadly speaking, that African-American police officers have viewed the string of highly publicized police killings in recent years?
PRUITT: We feel that some of them have been unjust. We feel that some of them, there could have been another option besides a shooting and a killing.
INSKEEP: Would you talk to me a little bit more about that from a police perspective? - because you have an officer who says, I felt threatened in whatever situation. And we could go through incident after incident after incident. You're arguing that, in fact, there are occasions when police should have been better trained, should have thought a little bit more, should have waited one more second before pulling the trigger.
PRUITT: I agree with everything that you just said. It does come down to training. A big question that we have as an organization is, we're trying to figure out what causes so much fear in the police community. Why do they see, in our perception, black people as - to be feared more than anyone else? That's concerning to us.
INSKEEP: So what would you say to football fans or sports fans or just people wearing Nike gear who are burning their Nike gear?
PRUITT: (Laughter) I would say cut it out because that's dangerous. (Laughter). Hey, if - they have a right to feel the way that they do, though. And we wouldn't tell them not to do that. I, for one, am headed to the Nike store to buy a new pair.
Sonia Pruitt, thanks very much.
PRUITT: Thank you, sir.
INSKEEP: She's a police lieutenant and chair of the National Black Police Association. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.