Blog Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging

Perspective: Broadening the scope as the country re-imagines policing

Written by Ron Long, head of Wells Fargo Aging Client Services

In the wake of the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, there has been a call to reimagine policing. As an African American male who has been stopped over 20 times in my life thus far, I fully support having those conversations. Some of those stops were surely deserved — including my 95 mph cruise down a flat Nebraska interstate. Others, such as the stop soon after I moved to my house in Missouri, were pure pretext.

Avoiding “jeans day” to minimize police targeting

I’ll never forget when the officer turned on his lights as I slowly drove down the two blocks leading to my driveway. As I handed him my license, he soon discovered that this large, new home was in fact mine — answering his obvious question: “You live here?” It probably didn’t hurt that I was in golf attire at the time, as well. It’s important to note there is a lot of nuance in police stops. In Nebraska, the state trooper and I had a nice chat, and he handed me a $35 ticket for going “5-10 mph over the posted limit.” In contrast, I received a $110 ticket from the Virginia County deputy sheriff for going 66 mph in a 60 mph zone.

Most of my colleagues know I always wear a suit or jacket to work, even in the blistering St. Louis summer heat (thank you, air conditioning!). I am never a participant in a work “jeans day,” though I’ve never shared why. I believe that a black male’s encounter with the police might go easier if dressed a particular way. I am not naïve. Some African Americans have had and will continue to have disastrous encounters with law enforcement regardless of their attire. However, much like a kid with their “blankey,” I have used this crutch for a long time. So, yes, I am fully in support of reimagining policing on many fronts.

Building financial protection of elders into policing

A topic I’ve spent a significant portion of my life dedicated to is the financial protection of seniors. Alongside a number of industries, law enforcement plays a critical role in helping to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens. And yet, over the years, I have seen many situations where officers have minimized pervasive and abusive behavior happening to today’s seniors. Comments such as, “it’s a civil matter” or “she’s going to inherit it all anyway” have often preceded the officer getting back into his or her cruiser and leaving the scene.

As the head of Aging Client Services for Wells Fargo, I want the mission of combatting elder financial abuse to be considered as we reimagine policing. I’ve seen how police intervention can help a senior come to their senses and recognize the exploitative behavior to which they have been targeted — and I want to see more of it. Police intervention also serves to focus the mind of alleged perpetrators, frequently halting the exploitative conduct with no repeat offenses. I look forward to conversations that help ensure policing lives up to its general creed of “protect and serve.” I believe it can and will transform as we all look upon the recent tragedies as a catalyst to making changes that are long overdue — including in the fight against elder financial abuse. And who knows? I just might put on that pair of jeans one day.