Monday, April 30, 2007
Race Gap Cited in Traffic Searches - AP
My PC meter was just short-circuited. I witnessed a man, whose race shall-not-be-named, run a red light at high speed in a busy intersection. I thought I was watching COPS. From my quick view, a profile would have made him a moron-of-interest and perhaps think twice about potentially killing a person in the crosswalk, or on a bike, or in a car.
It appears reasonable that blacks and whites should find themselves stopped by police with the same frequency, all things being equal. Each has the same set of rights and responsibilities as citizen to obey the law, along with the same presumption of innocence with respect to that law.
The problem, of course, is that not all things are, in fact, equal. I profile people constantly, ever since I got my unequal butt-whipped in the sixth grade. If blacks find themselves outside of the confines of the law, whether the infractions are small or large, should they be surprised that they are stopped , admonished or arrested, and incarcerated in higher numbers?
The real question is if the police have a responsibility to ignore data showing higher levels of lawlessness, simply because it offends group sensibilities? Forget presumption. Can officers, white or black, ignore this data even when ordered or trained too, especially when it might increase their chances of injury or death in the performance of their duty? I do not think so.
This is the dilemma we face when it comes to racial profiling, culture, education, economics and stereotypes. A combination of real factors driving disparities of behaviors is distilled down to aid quick life and death decisions, in the officer’s mind, as to whether to engage someone or not, and what posture to take. There is not much time to ‘puzzy-foot around’ when the routine stuff is what gets you killed. We live in tough times.
Somewhere between my father and Richard Pryor, I learned how to engage an officer’s approach. Dad said to speak respectfully and do as you are instructed. Pryor said, make no sudden moves if you don’t want to be a mother f***ing accident. I follow both, and instruct my kids as well. In fact, the closest I have ever come to police brutality was at the hands of a black officer who took umbrage at my black-on-black wit.
Anyway, when I see the way free people dress - like prison inmates. How they tattoo themselves with all manner of aggression; the gansta-rap and speak that rules their tongues; the menacing looks that can and will kill. I say, who in their right mind would ever want to be in law enforcement? Then I say, police yourselves yes, but do not stop policing us. Dad and sir Richard, keeping it very real.
James C. Collier
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