For some background, see my previous post.
Gary Fields and John R. Emshwiller have an article in the Wall Street Journal today: “As Arrest Records Rise, Americans Find Consequences Can Last a Lifetime.” The article goes on to point out that approximately 1 in 3 Americans are in the FBI’s criminal database, with serious consequences, even when charges are dropped.
That’s certainly concerning, but it can be even worse than that for some people who have never even been arrested but just get stopped by police because of the color of their skin. You know what I’m talking about: DWB (driving while black) stops are rampant. And it’s cost at least one young black man the job he wanted.
“Joe” (not his real name) is a young black man who wanted to be a police officer. He has no history of arrests, never belonged to a gang, never been in any kind of trouble, had good grades, has no tattoos, and did superbly on every test and screening for a Florida police department, scoring in the high 90’s or getting perfect scores. But he got rejected.
Why? Because, they said, his record showed he had been stopped numerous times by police while driving. He never was arrested or even ticketed, but the fact that he was stopped numerous times cost him the job.
So because racist cops stop young black men who have done nothing wrong other than being black, the young black people may lose out on jobs?
How can this be right or just?
When the young man’s father – who is himself a police officer in New York City – told me the story, I was outraged, and we talked about his son filing an EEOC complaint.
And in the process of discussing his son, he told me more about his own background – how he had originally applied to be a member of FDNY and had been denied because of discrimination, despite passing the physical and scoring highly on the written test and screenings. Eventually, he became a cop – not really to protect and serve others, he said, but to get the cops to stop harassing him. He had been stopped by police so many times – without cause – and decided that if he had a badge, maybe they would at least leave him alone and not harass him more.
It works, he told me. He still gets stopped a lot, but now he just shows them his badge, and he’s allowed to go on his way. Not even an apology from those stopping him. I wonder how many other black police officers are also frequently stopped or harassed by police when they are off-duty.
Someone shouldn’t have to become a police officer to stop harassment by the police.
Tomorrow, Attorney General Eric Holder will be in Ferguson, Missouri. He says he’s unhappy with how some things have been handled there. He’s not the only one. But the blue on black problem is a national problem and needs a national solution. No young man should lose a job opportunity because of unwarranted and racist stops by police. No man should be treated like a suspect or harassed by police just because of the color of his skin.
Enough already. If we need to implement punitive measures to discipline cops who make stops not based on reasonable suspicion, then let’s do it. And let’s make sure all cops are wearing their name badges with their numbers so that the public knows who stopped them and can file complaints.