A Washington, D.C., police officer found herself in an unusual confrontation with a high school student earlier this week that tested skills not taught at the police academy.
In an effort to break up a lingering crowd following a fight, a female D.C. police officer ended up in a dance-off with a 17-year-old high school student, The Washington Post reports.
Though anecdotal and brief, this hip-shaking, moon-walking encounter in southwest Washington serves as a comical reminder that positive interactions do happen between the police and the communities they serve. Despite recent spotlights on police brutality and incidents of excessive force, such pleasant encounters might be more common than media portrays.
On Monday afternoon, Aaliyah Taylor, a senior at Ballou High School, allegedly approached the uniformed officer and began playing the hit pop song “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” by rapper Silentó.
She then started to dance the eponymous Nae Nae, but the officer, who wanted to remain anonymous, wasn’t impressed. Ms. Taylor says she laughed at her, but instead of brushing her off, the officer claimed her own moves were better and challenged her to a dance-off.
If the teens win, she told Taylor, they could remain in the area. But if she won, they’d have to leave.
What ensued was several minutes of silly but impressive simultaneous dancing, a portion of which Taylor’s friends captured on video.
“Instead of us fighting, she tried to turn it around and make it something fun,” Taylor tells the Post. “I never expected cops to be that cool. There are some good cops.”
The officer later explained to the Post that she doesn’t want to reveal her identity because the story isn’t about her. She had joined the department about three years ago and recently completed a tour in Iraq.
“It’s kind of embarrassing that this became so big,” she says. “This is what we do everyday.”
Though it might have been just another ordinary day for this dancing cop, some of her fellow officers across the country are thrilled that her moves made it on camera.
“A lot of people are surprised with this video, and I’m happy with it, and that’s all great, but the truth of the matter is that police officers all around the country have millions of contacts [with citizens] everyday,” says Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, the largest union for officers in the United States.
“People are very quick to take out their cell phones when they see a confrontation,” he tells The Christian Science Monitor, “but almost never tape the good things.”
According to the latest information from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, among a surveyed pool of 60,000 people who had contact with the police, about nine out of 10 felt that in their most recent encounter, the police were respectful or acted properly.
In the same 2008 study, researchers found that only 1.4 percent of respondents said that officers used or threatened to use force against them. However, young, black, or male Americans were more likely to experience force than any other demographic group.
“The vast majority of police officers do their jobs everyday, anonymously and heroically,” Pasco says. This particular D.C. officer has an innate ability to develop rapport, he explains, but many other cops are capable of it as well.
For Taylor, Monday’s dance-off proved that such cops do exist. Growing up in a black family with six sisters and one brother, she says, all of whom have been arrested for nonviolent offenses, she’d only heard stories about excessively rude or rough officers.
“I thought all cops were cruel because that’s how I saw them,” she says. “I’ve now seen there are good cops out there.”
In the end, the crowds finally dispersed but there was no official victor in Monday’s impromptu dance competition, as the opponents both claimed herself to be the winner.
So, the two valiant competitors hugged and went their ways.