The Disenfranchisement of Law Enforcement
On March 31, 2018, NY Port Authority Commissioner Caren Turner was called to give her daughter and friends a ride home after they had been stopped by police for an expired registration. Ms. Turner demanded to know what happened, and the officer told her she could get that information from the driver of the vehicle as the 4 occupants were all adults. Ms. Turner, unhappy with the answer, flashed her badge and angrily berated the officers and used her position in an effort to get the information. Officers were polite to Ms. Turner, however she threatened to bring them up before the commissioner, and cursed at them and touted her connections to the Mayor to intimidate them in order to change the outcome of the traffic stop.
On April 12th 2018, South Carolina NAACP President Jerrod Moutrie was pulled over for failure to signal and a problem with his license plate. He owns a Mercedes and lives in a nice neighborhood. After the encounter, he posted on facebook that he was racially profiled, asked repeatedly where he was going in that neighborhood, and if he had drugs. He said he told his mother and a child in the car not to move because police shoot black people. He also called the police chief and complained about being racially profiled. Upon review of the bodycam video, it was found that the officer was polite and brief and the entire story was made up by Moutrie.
On April 13 2018, The Chair of the Baltimore Police dept civilian oversight panel and a minister, Marvin McKenstry was double parked in the middle of the street, blocking traffic. An officer asked him to move several times, and McKenstry told the officer to go around him. After repeated requests for McKenstry to move the officer pulled the vehicle over and requested his driver’s license and registration. Despite being asked 60 times for the information, McKenstry refused to cooperate. An additional 4 officers were deployed to the scene. McKenstry was give 4 citations, one for stopping in the middle of the street, one for refusing to give the officer license and registration, one for not having his registration, and one for willfully disobeying the lawful commands of an officer. He refused to sign the tickets and got one more for that.
On April 27,2018, New Jersey School Board Member Stephanie Lawson Muhammad was pulled over for speeding. She immediately started to pseudo sob that she was scared of the officer because cops hurt black people. The officer noted that she seemed to be having a panic attack and offered to call an ambulance, whereupon she called that a “f…ing” insult. She told the officer she was going to call the South Orange President, and attempted to use civic privilege and her position on the school board to manipulate the outcome of the traffic stop. She also threatened to call the officers ”skinhead chief”. She did not have a valid insurance card with her at the time.
What do these four examples have in common? These four officials each used their position of authority or their race to affect the outcome of their lawful police encounter. Three of the four lied about the circumstances of that encounter to benefit themselves, and disenfranchise law enforcement from their community and cause additional strife between law enforcement and their community.
Law enforcement is a difficult and dangerous job already, without having people, especially people in positions of authority, abuse those positions at the expense of officers serving their communities. The harm that can be caused by escalating a simple situation, in these cases minor traffic stops, can range from further dividing the communities and races from law enforcement, to civil unrest due to a false narrative, to further civil disobedience which has a potential to escalate to force, even deadly force.
One of these persons formerly chaired the Baltimore Citizens Police review board. What is notable and disappointing is that he not only misunderstands basic police practices of lawful detention, but still maintains a position on this board. All of his future decisions will be tainted by his obvious bias and deceit. Is this who Baltimore truly benefits from being on this commission? This is a man who says that he did not choose to obey the lawful commands of the officer because he thinks its time to go beyond lawful commands and just have a conversation. What chance does any officer have for a fair review from the likes of this man?
The two people of color who threw down the race card during a lawful and polite traffic stop are examples of why the false narrative continues about the police and racial profiling. It was not the police doing the profiling here, it was public officials, lying and attempting to use civic influence. How many times are these false stories picked up and blown up by the media, further damaging race relations and causing strife in communities that would otherwise get along?
The Port Authority commissioner was an embarrassment and a horrible example to the 4 young people, her daughter included, acting in a way that is the antithesis of how a responsible person should behave during any police encounter.
All four of these “officials” escalated minor situations. In all cases, the officers were polite, professional, and businesslike. In all cases the officers attempted to de-escalate the situation. In all cases officers put up with threats, verbal abuse, and willful disobedience of lawful police orders.
In my opinion, several things should be done. Number one, any person in any type of government paid job, must have a moral turpitude clause that they must sign before starting their position. Moral turpitude refers to conduct which does not fall within the standards of the community, including honesty and trustworthiness. If this is violated, which should include disrespect and disobedience to lawful police commands, filing false complaints, spreading false narratives regarding police encounters, upon a sustained complaint, the person should be immediately discharged from their position and barred from holding public office again.
A law should be enacted in every state that makes it a crime to provide false information regarding a police encounter.
Any person should be prosecuted under this law, but the penalty for a person in a position of authority should be enhanced.
Lastly, although I know its wishful thinking, the media needs to stop forwarding these false narratives unless and until facts come out to unequivocally substantiate any claims against law enforcement of bias, racial profiling, discrimination and uses of force.