That story of the police stop of a rich black family is making its rounds with a recent stop on the front page of the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer. Here’s my Part 2 of the 6-Part series I could write, but I’m going to stop here at 2.
Part 1 focused on how two separate newspapers presented an alternative focus on the incident. Despite some of the comments, I wasn’t accusing either of writing anything wrong. If anything, it supports a case as to why a consumer of news should seek out multiple sources before forming your own opinions.
This post will focus on living in affluent neighborhoods and police training.
Affluent neighborhoods deserve a police presence. These families pay tens of thousands of dollars a year in taxes to their local government in return for some peace and quiet, a comfortable lifestyle, and some protection. If the police see something out of the norm, they should investigate.
A black man driving alone at midnight in an affluent neighborhood in Chadds Ford is probably unusual to a rookie cop who hasn’t been around long enough to know the people he’s charged with protecting. It only takes one traffic stop to get to know one of the neighbors.
We shouldn’t expect the officer will be identified publicly or be told whether this State Trooper job was his first law enforcement assignment. We probably will never know if he came to the force with a history of being mean to black men; if it was something he learned in trooper training; or if he had this disturbing behavior in the past and why it wasn’t identified before he became a trooper.
If I were to create a police training program, I’d start with the basics – old police TV shows. As a kid, besides knowing guys in the community who were policemen, we learned how cops behave from TV. Shows like Adam 12, Car 54, and The Rookies come to the top of my mind when I think of cops working a beat on TV. When they pulled someone over, they were always firm, but polite. These new police shows are a whole different animal. Art imitates life on these new cop shows – or the other way around – in a way that isn’t much fun for me to watch, so I don’t.
In the olden days of being pulled over by a cop, I envision the Chadds Ford situation would have gone something like this…
After pulling the car over, the cop would carefully walk up to the driver’s side window, shine his flashlight throughout the car, and ask for license and registration. Of course, he already knew it was a rental so the driver would probably have to reach in the glove compartment for the paperwork. If scared, maybe the cop would just settle for the license.
He’d walk back to his car to check the licenses and return to start a conversation something like this…
Police: Do you know why I pulled you over?
Victim: No officer.
Police: You crossed the yellow center line…or we’ve had some burglaries in the area lately…and I didn’t recognize your car.
Victim: I see.
Police: I see you live up the block. Is everything okay? I’ll just follow you to your home (as his way of making sure he goes to the address on his driver’s license and sees him open his front door with a key and disarm the house alarm system. If still not satisfied the victim lives there, ask to see the family photos on the fireplace mantle).
Victim: Thank you officer. Have a good night.
Obviously, it didn’t go down anything like this. The officer seemed like someone Jordan Peele would cast in the next ‘Get Out’ movie where the horror of the movie is being in a situation just like this.
The only other thing that kinda bothered me about the newspaper coverage is how they laid out exactly what streets in Chadds Ford the traffic stop occurred. Couple that with the photo showing the victim’s house in the background, it becomes real easy to find his house. Real easy! When you live in those neighborhoods, you normally do so for the luxury and the anonymity. Somehow, that wasn’t considered in this case by the press.
I know I couldn’t live like that because I love being around people, places and things. You’d find me in a million-dollar penthouse before you find me out in these ‘burbs like that. But, to each his own. Some folks enjoy the big house and a lot of land and I ain’t mad at em. Invite me to the bar-b-que and pool party anytime you like.
I sentence that cop to sit in front of some old black and white TV cop shows so he can see a more civil way of policing. In the meantime, if they’re going to keep him employed, find him a gig at the barracks until we’re really sure he’s ready to police everyone like a gentleman.