Racism is omnipresent in society and no race, religion, nationality gender, ethnicity or sexually oriented group is immune. British and Irish, Serbian and Croatian, African American and White American Slavery,and the vestiges thereafter Israel and Arab nations Jews and Germany, Bosnia with ethnic cleansing and too many religious disputes to keep up.
In America if a person is stopped by a Police Officer the vast majority of police agencies require the Officer to give their name and badge number to a civilian. If the citizen is not happy with the police officers action they may file a complaint against the Police Officer. These ” independent review boards ” in NYC called CCRB are non police agencies which will review the officers actions and make a determination on such issues such as ” excessive force, abuse of authority , discourtesy or an ethnic slur. Police Officers who get too many complaints from the public are often penalized by their respective agencies and there career may suffer. Many Officers feel that the complaint system is a method to intimidate, stifle and impede there duties. In addition they are viewed as a method for the citizen to ” get even” or get back” at a Police Officer who was just doing his or her job.
This week Congressman Davis of Chicago was pulled over by two white officers. The officers stated they pulled the Congressman over because he “swerved and was driving left of center”. The Congressman disputes the factual narration of the officers and has stated the only reason he was pulled over was because he was black. The Congressman who identified himself immediately filed a complaint against the officers alleging the sole reason he was stopped in his subjective opinion is because he was DWB ( driving while black)
The Supreme Court of the United States has addressed this issue of when a police officer may pull over a motorist, In the seminal case of Whren v U.S. In a nutshell the Whren Rule is as follows; So long as a police officer has a valid lawful reason to stop a motorist for a traffic infraction or probable cause for a crime ( Congressman Davis was stopped according to the police for a traffic infraction) the court will not evaluate the subjective motive ( pretextural) reason for the stop. Basically that means if a cop has a hunch a person is ” driving dirty” as the song goes but stops him for lets say a broken tail light, in such an event the stop is lawful because the officer had a valid traffic infraction for which he may stop the motorist even if he was motivated by a desire to let say view the interior of the car for drugs, contraband or weapons. This was a unanimous decision with all justices agreeing which as most court observes will note is a rarity. Here is the official summary from the court:
Plainclothes policemen patrolling a “high drug area” in an unmarked vehicle observed a truck driven by petitioner Brown waiting at a stop sign at an intersection for an unusually long time; the truck then turned suddenly, without signalling, and sped off at an “unreasonable” speed. The officers stopped the vehicle, assuredly to warn the driver about traffic violations, and upon approaching the truck observed plastic bags of crack cocaine in petitioner Whren‘s hands. Petitioners were arrested. Prior to trial on federal drug charges, they moved for suppression of the evidence, arguing that the stop had not been justified by either a reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe petitioners were engaged in illegal drug dealing activity, and that the officers’ traffic violation ground for approaching the truck was pretextual. The motion to suppress was denied, petitioners were convicted, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.
Held: The temporary detention of a motorist upon probable cause to believe that he has violated the traffic laws does not violate the Fourth Amendment‘s prohibition against unreasonable seizures, even if a reasonable officer would not have stopped the motorist absent some additional law enforcement objective. Pp. 3-13.
Copy and paste for the full decision from the court. ;http://www4.law.cornell.edu/supct/search/display.html?terms=whren&url=/supct/html/95-5841.ZS.html
For further discussion on the Whren decision you may want to check out:
<a href=”http://law.jrank.org/pages/13078/Whren-v-United-States.html”>Whren v. United States</a>
Now, I can’t attest to the veracity ( are they telling the truth) of the police officers. I will not draw a conclusions as to their character trait of Honesty or the lack thereof . Congressman Davis will plead his case, and I’m sure with his attorney and be proved innocent or guilty as charged.
What I don’t like is that an elected official accuses the police of racism prior to his court date. If the court finds Congressman Davis innocent of all alleged traffic violations at that point he may consistent with our beloved freedom of speech state his feelings that he was only stopped because he was black. However for him to use his bully pulpit and position of authority and access to media to call the cops defacto racists is in my opinion wrong. It is pre trial publicity which may distort the facts.
Calling a person a racist is a serious matter, and to state that they are ” bad cops” before the judicial hearing ,empowers others to do the same and serves to minimize and trivialize our judicial system. Let us assume that the Congressman who was driving home after midnight was distracted and unintentionally swerved in his car, or perhaps he was tired and “riding the line” or after a long day he had ” tired eyes” weary from a long work day. All are reasonable answers for his actions.
I can tell you as a cop that 99% of the time an elderly person is stopped, the cop does not issue a ticket. They almost always see a senior ( davis is over 65) and say hello. But here, and I will make an assumption that if the first words out of the Congressman were ;” what are you stoping ME for” the dialog took on a confrontational tone. Perhaps with both parties digging in, the Cops doing their job , the Congressman being very sensitive to concerns on the issue of DWB. Than realizing that the Congressman would make a complaint against them the police officers decided to best protect themselves they had best document the encounter with a ticket. THE CHOICE IS CLEAR CHOSE TO ABUSE OR DI-FUSE.
But here according to the press accounts the Congressman ” demanded to know why he was being stopped” . When the cop told him for weaving and driving left of center, the Congressman felt this was ” bullshit” and just a pre text to stop motorist who are African American.
The Congressman who holds a doctorate and who writes the laws of the land must also know that at that hour of the night riding the line and swerving often are indicators of driving while intoxicated due to the consumption of drugs or alcohol.
So who is telling the truth , well in he said, she said incidents we may never know. If the cops are articulate, and a Judge feels they are telling the truth maybe they will prevail However a Congressman is a pretty powerful person and elected officials often have influence over how Judges are selected. And in a town like Chicago, i would guess the Congressman will win in the interest of justice and with a traffic court magistrate hoping his in decision will help his future rise to a more prominent judical posisiton.
However Congressman Davis’s character may be partially reviewed. ” Davis has been one of the most prolific travelers in Congress, accepting 47 trips paid for by private groups since 2000. That total ranks Davis 15th among the 535 members of Congress, according to Political Moneyline, a non-partisan watchdog group that compiles data from congressional disclosure forms.
One of his trips was paid for by a terrorist organization there logo is above the Liberation Tigers of mileelam ;see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamil_Tigers ;They advocate a division in Sri Lanka.
Congressman Davis is also a leading national advocate for ex offenders. Davis stated ” Within three years, 60 to 70 percent of the people who get out of the penitentiary are rearrested,” “Forty-some percent of them are re-incarcerated within a three-year period. That’s just recycling misery and poverty, and reinforcing the inability of our society to salvage.”
So my take on this Congressman Davis knows how to get publicity. Congressman Davis likes the pork with the office objectively viewed by all the trips and perks. When he took a trip paid for by a terrorist group he stated I didn’t know”. *HMMM , sir you have a doctorate degree, have your heard of due diligence, lobbyists, ethical conflicts, appearances of impropriety, influence peddling?) In Congressman Davis’s view Cops are just low lifes and a powerful person like him is above the law, above an appearance in traffic court, and permitted to pass judgment and slander the reputation of two most likely good police officers just doing their jobs. Shame on him for taking the low ride prior to a review of the actions by the proper judicial agency, and shame on him for calling the cops de-facto racists, and bad cops in advance of his day in court.