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Public Employee Press: PEP Talk

Local 3778 president to NYPD Commissioner: Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter street mural outside the NYPD Crime Lab in Jamaica, Queens.

Donique Berry, President, Local 3778.

Donique Berry, a former scientist and union leader at the NYPD Crime Lab, learned early in life to always speak up for what’s important.

“As a Black kid in an all-white high school in Poughkeepsie, I was bullied by two white freshmen who physically attacked me and used racial slurs. A Black science teacher spoke up for me and she lost her job,” Berry said.

As President of Local 3778 New York City Police Department (NYPD) Technical Professional Employees, Berry always spoke up for members.

When protests for justice for George Floyd peaked in New York, the NYPD Commissioner sent a memo to all 100,000 police and 30,000 NYPD civilians. Berry found his message disturbing and exclusionary.

In his memo, Commissioner Dermot Shea wrote, “if only rioters could walk a day in the shoes of police officers, they would change their behavior.”

“I read it over and over again and I was very hurt,” Berry said. “Did he not see the hypocrisy or understand that if only police could walk a day in the shoes of Black people, maybe they would understand how we feel about the murders of unarmed Black men and women? I could not let this rest.”

Later, Berry sent a message from her personal email explaining to the commissioner that she and other Black and brown civilian NYPD employees face the harsh realities of racism and injustice every day.

“To watch someone lose their life because of their race is not a political stance,” Berry said. “It’s a matter of empathy. When I leave the NYPD lab, I am Black. Our lives and those of our loved ones matter, too.”

“I used the commissioner’s words and asked him to walk a day in a Black person’s shoes to understand just how institutional racism and police violence deeply hurts us,” Berry said. “It affects us mentally, physically, and that affects how we do our jobs.”

Berry’s email led to a face-to-face meeting with the NYPD Commissioner of Equality and Inclusion. Their meaningful conversation resulted in a Black Lives Matter mural outside the NYPD crime lab and Queens courthouse.

“That mural is strategic and seen every day,” Berry said. On their own time, Berry and coworkers helped paint that Queens BLM mural.

“All will now see Black lives matter, that WE matter,” said Berry, who recently left the NYPD to attend medical school.

“It’s not us against them,” added Berry. “This is a cry for unity, for empathy, for us to start the difficult conversations that can lead to change.”