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The co-authors of Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship, have some thoughts on the shooting of Michael Brown, and why blacks and whites see the situation so differently:

After interviewing hundreds of drivers about their experiences in police stops, we can see why [there is a vast gulf between how blacks and whites view the recent events in Ferguson, Mo.]. African Americans experience not only more police stops than whites but also a completely different kind of stop....

A thought experiment for white readers, drawn from actual examples from our interviews:

Suppose you are pulled over by a police officer while driving home from work. The officer doesn’t say you were speeding or ran a red light. Instead, he asks where you’re coming from and where you’re going. While you answer, he looks around your car with a flashlight. Then he lets you go, with no ticket or further explanation. Five minutes later, another officer stops you and asks the same questions, only to let you go again.

Or suppose you are standing in a yard, in an ordinary working-class neighborhood, talking to your friends. An officer drives down the street, stops and approaches with a hand on his gun. “Nobody move!” he barks. “Keep your hands where I can see them and show me your IDs.”

Or suppose you are driving home from school with friends and an officer pulls you over. He tells you that you look like the suspects in a recent burglary, then handcuffs you all and makes you sit on the sidewalk to wait for a witness to arrive to look at you. After an hour, he lets you go with no explanation....

The incidents described above are called investigatory stops....  Our interviews revealed that while whites are quite familiar with traffic-safety stops, they have little experience with investigatory stops. But half of all stops reported by blacks were investigatory.

(my emphasis)

Police justify this blatantly discriminatory tactic by saying it's a proactive way to fight crime in high-crime neighborhoods, a "numbers game" that sometimes nets them drugs or weapons. What about the large numbers of those who aren't involved in any illegality that these tactics humiliate, enrage, and endanger? Not to mention the imposition on their civil rights of those who are being stopped without proper cause, no matter what they're doing.

This is the sort of information that whites need to hear more of. I'd like to think that the gap between white and black attitudes on the Brown shooting, among so many others, is a result of a lack of information not of the potential for empathy.

The authors have a suggestion on what has to be done to reverse the poisonous atmosphere these police tactics have created:

There is a way forward: Rein in investigatory stops. African Americans resent not so much the police but a particular type of police activity. They, like whites, accept police stops made for a clear violation and not as a pretext to question and search....

Ending investigatory stops would make it possible to begin rebuilding trust, stop by stop. Hiring more black police officers is essential but in itself will not address the problem. Even racially diverse departments such as New York’s have carried out far too many of these stops when this was the policy of police leadership.

The problem is not police stops — it is investigatory stops. These stops poison blacks’ attitudes toward the police — and toward the law itself.

And speaking of rebuilding trust between the police and the people, how about, while they're at it, taking away the MRAPs, the grenade launchers, the M-16 rifles, the black masks, the military-grade Storm Trooper body armor....

Originally posted to Th0rn on Mon Sep 01, 2014 at 09:29 PM PDT.

Also republished by Black Kos community.

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Comment Preferences

  •  "Investigatory" in this sense is just too broad.. (8+ / 0-)

    of a definition. It turns 'probable cause' on its constitutional head.

    The problem is not police stops — it is investigatory stops. These stops poison blacks’ attitudes toward the police — and toward the law itself.
    This needs to stop.

    "If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged." - 17th-century French clergyman and statesman Cardinal Richelieu.

    by markthshark on Mon Sep 01, 2014 at 09:49:02 PM PDT

  •  This is all about authority and control. (6+ / 0-)

    They know the African-American must be careful, must be accommodating, must submit --respectfully--or face "consequences."

    Actual arrests are just icing on the cake of their racism.

    "I think in America, the opposite of poverty is justice." Bryan Stevenson

    by gfre on Mon Sep 01, 2014 at 10:06:00 PM PDT

  •  To Serve and Inspect (4+ / 0-)

    "The Democrats and the Republicans are equally corrupt where money is concerned. It's only in the amount where the Republicans excel." ~ Will Rogers

    by Lefty Coaster on Mon Sep 01, 2014 at 10:08:36 PM PDT

  •  I've been subject to an investigatory stop. (11+ / 0-)

    The prectext was that I didn't use my turn signal turning onto the road where I live. The officer was visibly upset to find a white haired old women when, because of out of state plates, he thought he was making a drug bust. He didn't like being quizzed about his purpose and threatened arrest.
    My response, the next day, was to write up an incident report and send it to his chief. I never heard anything back. The police do not like being reprimanded by the citizenry.

    Shall we blame the war on durgs? Not really. What we might blame is falling serious crime rates, the fear of being laid off and the culture of compliance. Also, proactive policing is based on the false notion that "if you keep 'em scared, they won't get out of line." What it really does is waste a lot of time and generate a lot of resentment. Innocent people really hate being falsely accused. The good thing is that this resentment, if properly channeled, can prompt citizens to make changes. It worked in the '60s and it can work again. That we have to do it again is just evidence that the authoritarian mind-set will re-surface if we are not eternally vigilant.
    Some humans just get off on making other humans conform to their demands. The "political economy" is about employing what humans need to sustain their existence to make them follow demands. It's easy to do when currency is universally used to mediate all transactions. There was more than one reason for orchestrating the demise of the family farm.

  •  Thank you that is a great point on explaining (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cany, Th0rn

    how and why blacks view this differently.

    -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)! Follow on Twitter @dopper0189

    by dopper0189 on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 04:19:02 AM PDT

  •  I had this happen to me. (6+ / 0-)

    I don't know if the officer didn't realize that I was white when he stopped me, but I suspect that was the problem.  

    1. I was in an old beater Datsun driving through a ritzy town on the way home from work (with my dog, no less). The cop stopped me and looked through the car windows at me and my dog. The car was full of stuff from a recent meeting; pots and pans, vacuum etc. because I cooked for 70 people and cleaned the place up afterwards so we didn't have to pay a cleaning fee.

    Got asked where I was going etc.

    When done he walked away saying, "Get new windshield wipers."

    1) It was summer and no rain in sight.
    2) There was nothing wrong with my wipers.

    2. Got stopped by the same officer about 5 days later, same street. He asked if he had stopped me before with a child in the car. I said no, it had been my dog, and yes, he stopped me before and what was it now. He walked away and didn't say one single word more... just drove away.

    3. Got stopped again about 5 days later... same street, same cop. He walked up to the car, looked at me, looked over the car, asked me who Lorraine XXXXXXXXX was (he was my dad and I have NO idea what anything had to do with him as he lived in 29 Palms (far away), was elderly and male, obviously). After I said he was my dad, he walked away not saying even goodbye or "get windshield wipers" again, and drove off.

    The third time it happened, I was really pissed. I got home and called the department (Villa Park), and told them that this needed to stop and if it didn't I would file a harassment complaint followed by a lawsuit. I had the officer's name and hadn't even gotten so much as a warning other than the windshield wipers that did NOT need to be replaced. These stops were ALL bullshit.

    It never happened again and it is now almost 20 years (and several cars, including a couple old cars), later.

    Bad cop?  Yep, it seems so. But this area has a lot of Latino workers (housekeepers, maintenance workers) in the area and I cannot help but feel that this was really the motivation for the stops (read race). They probably suspected I was Latino or something and thus a good opportunity for an investigatory stop.

    This is a very rich and conservative small city and I suspect one of the ways they pull revenue out to enhance their meager budget of $3.5M is traffic stops. The population is 5,800 or so with an average income of about $160K. The city is 78% white (Asian/Pacific Islanders being about 14.7%), 66% GOP. (This from 2010 census).

    I think you see the problem.

    The only hawk I like is the kind that has feathers. My birding blogs: and

    by cany on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 05:11:01 AM PDT

    •  I'm pretty sure I know that town (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tommymet, Th0rn, a2nite, cowdab, cany

      I'm sure there is more than one Villa Park in the US, but from your description and a couple of other clues I immediately recognized the one you are talking about. The small company I work for is based about 1/2 mile from there, and I have to travel to the area often. Your description is spot on - I also suspect traffic stops are a source of revenue for a community of tax-hating conservatives.

      For over 15 years, driving through there is almost unavoidable at times and I always try to stick to the speed limit (even though in that area speed limits are often treated as minimum speeds) and become extra conscientious about following traffic laws. Maybe it's because I am a black woman but the place has always screamed "speedtrap" as I've driven through. (I've even felt uncomfortable when I've stopped at their main retail center. The vibe is definitely "your type isn't welcome here", unless you're doing cleaning or maintenance.) Though I have noticed fewer patrol cars sitting right off the main drag the past couple of years - I wonder if they have run into financial or civil rights issues recently?

  •  A recent conversation with (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Belle Ame

    very progressive friends recently led  to the subject of the Ferguson police riots.  I was shocked when my friend said, "They always react that way when angry."  I asked who "they" were.  She went directly to the looting part of the protests.

    She does not have the first clue how racist it is.  She had even stayed with a black family, interacted with "them" and found them perfectly wonderful people and no different from anyone else she knew.  Yet that media shot with the looters back-lit and carrying arms full of stolen goods was all she saw in the coverage.  

    After that sight, in her mind, that justified the police response and the murder of the black teen was incidental.  Managing to stay in my chair somehow, I took it to the next level as to why it appeared this way, who was actually looting and the fact that the protesters trying to stop them just blended into the shot as if they were perpetrators as well.  I saw the same video she did and, must admit I wanted to cry; my gut had a similar reaction.  In less than 5 seconds I was over it and back to reality.  

    It is a knee jerk response of most and many do not go to the next level and think it through.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to make this erroneous impression clear in the media.  It is at least as important to correct the impression as it is to stop that type reaction.  

    In the end it is my hope that I interjected another layer of thought into her pattern of understanding.  It seemed to work from what I could tell.  She knew almost nothing else of the incident but that scene will forever be burned into memory.  The media's continual loop of this video was pathetic; and it most certainly has some accountability here.

    "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

    by cowdab on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 01:57:57 PM PDT

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