Dear PoPville – Walking While Black

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Photo by PoPville flickr user ekelly80

Update with response from MPD Chief Cathy Lanier to the OP:

“The end of your email dictates exactly what I expect from my officers and what we have been training since I have been the Chief- building relationships. I am very sorry that you were subjected to what sounds like unprofessional behavior. Rest assured that we will handle this complaint appropriately and conduct an investigation into what occurred. I expect all of my members to treat everyone with dignity and respect all the time- every time. We will be in contact to get more information.”

“Dear PoPville,

I think I had my first experience of being stopped for Walking While Black. Mind you, I’m not black. I’m a 52-year-old white woman. Last night, I was walking from dinner down 14th St. near Spring Rd. with my sons, who are black. One was pointing out to me all the “J.O.s,” the undercover cops who “jump out” and demand see their ID. for no apparent reason, possibly frisk you, and do all other manner of constitutionally questionable behavior.

So after my son had just pointed out a particular J.O., lo and behold, a car pulls up, and out jump four or five officers confronting us and demanding to see our IDs. I ask if there is a problem and why are we being stopped. No answer, but they are becoming a little more aggressive and say they just want to see our IDs. They are obviously more interested in the boys, but want my ID as well. I ask why I need to show my ID. I introduce myself as the mother of these two young men and ask if we’re being stopped because my children are black (we’re used to be followed in the store, for example).

The officers—there are now about 10 or 11 of them surrounding us—become quite indignant and say how offended they are that I would say such a thing and accuse me of being ignorant, and say that I just accused them of being racist. I wasn’t accusing them of being racist. I was accusing them of racial profiling.

I mentioned that I’ve walked up and down 14th St. a thousand times and have never once been stopped and asked for my ID. Not once. Ever. Yet, my sons get stopped regularly including twice in one day this week. Sometimes these stops take 20 minutes. What if they’re on their way to a work or a job interview?

A black female officer is in my face expressing her disgust at me, saying how offended she is, as a black person, that I would say such a thing. Another is telling me that I’ve gone too far and threatening that I better back off because what I’m saying is offensive. Then they ALL chime in about how offensive I’m being. I point out that offensive speech is protected under the First Amendment, and that my speech was not offensive but truthful.

Then another officer says they’d had an “incident” with one of my boys a while back, so they did have a reason to stop him and check him. I said I hoped they took care of the problem then because we sure weren’t causing a problem now. Meanwhile, a few people are gathering telling me to stand my ground.

The officers finally back off sneering and telling me to have a blessed day, which I find offensive. One doesn’t feel blessed after being profiled and run through the ringer by the police. After they leave, the boys just look at me, smiling and nodding their head. Now I understand. I’ve had my first experience of being stopped for walking while black. Yup, they said. And now I also know how denigrating and horrible it feels.

After we walked a few more blocks, another car of “JOs” drove by and honked and waved in a taunting manner. Quite a professional lot, those 14th St. officers are.

I get that there has been an uptick in street robberies, and many of the perpetrators are young black men who look like my children. However, I don’t think racial profiling and shaking down a family walking home from dinner does much to advance public safety nor does it help build good will between the police department and those they are sworn to protect and serve. In fact, it just reinforces the hostility many young black men and women feel toward the police because of the relentless harassment.

I would think a more effective mode of policing would involve building relationships with the young people in the neighborhoods, not constantly and needlessly stopping them and trying to intimidate them. It certainly doesn’t work with me, and I tend to be a supporter of the department and the work it does. The way we were treated last night, though, felt like nothing short of petty thuggery.”

200 Comment

  • Thank you for this story and for letting me know how it feels to deal with this nonsense, which as a white guy I will never have to experience.

    • ledroittiger. I agree. I appreciated the opportunity to hear her perspective. I only wish I’d stopped reading at your comment. ;) So much anger / lack of empathy below.

  • Who commits the most crime in DC? What age group commits the most crime in DC? Where does a great deal of crime occur in that quadrant? What race are the usual suspects? What route do they take when fleeing the scence? I COMPLETELY support this type of police behavior. Its good worthwhile policing.

    • Flood gates open…

    • The vast majority of black teenagers will never commit a crime. Why should the police waste their time harassing them?

    • I’d say thats kind of a racist statement. If by who gets arrested teh most in DC, then maybe you have a point. Who “commits” the most crime in DC? That is easily white men. White men use drugs at the same or higher rate on top of all the scumbags down on K street. Just because society focuses on street crime to divide the working class doesnt mean thats “the majority of crime”, bc it’s not and asserting that is racially motivated.

      • Who commits the most violent crime?

        • Why is violent crime committed? If we’re going to address the issue we need to get to the root…everything else is just a distraction and dishonest.

        • Right down the street — the US government

        • Citing the rash of school, mall, and theater shootings, Charles Manson, David Berkowitz, Waco Texas, 9-11, The Kennedy Assasination, Jeffrey Dahmer, Gabrielle Giffords, La Casa Nostra, Bonnie & Clyde, Al Capone, Bernie Madoff, Corporate Stock scandals like Enron’s, Whitey Bulger, and Martha Stewart, one would be a total idiot to attribute violent or other crime to any one race.

          • White men are more likely to commit mass shootings. Black men are more likely to commit one-on-one shootings.

          • No, but there is one race which accounts for a wildly disproportionate amount of violent crime in this country. That’s not racism, that’s just stating a fact. An uncomfortable one perhaps, but a fact nonetheless. BTW, I am not even endorsing racial profiling, I just take exception to your implied idea that violent crime could come from anyone. Theoretically, yes, but in reality not so much. When someone gets knocked out by an Asian kid, let me know.

          • “No, but there is one race which accounts for a wildly disproportionate amount of violent crime in this country.”

            How fortunate it was the race we already hated that ended up being disproportionately corrupted by crime (independently, not like any self-fulfilling prophecy with rapid urban flight) so that we can continue to hate it. Sure, exploring why crime is so low in general in the US in light of vast economic disparity, especially among those not actively discriminated against, might be more constructive, but it’s not as fun as stating the demographics of crime in a racially essentialist way.

          • RE > White men are more likely to commit mass shootings. Black men are more likely to commit one-on-one shootings.

            So what’s your point then? Black one-on-one shootings pose a relatively low threat to non black people because they’re generally black-on-black crimes, by people associated with other criminal activity. These stats come from a DC that was populated mostly by blacks even until now. There is no correlation between race and crime, it’s purely economical, every time.

            I would fear going to an elementary school in the midwest much more than living in DC based on the sheer number of innocent victims. Trying to paint crime as a “mostly black phenomenon” is short sighted and plain ignorant. Compare DC crime in any neighborhood to crime rates in a large Texas trailer park, or a Chicago or Detroit suburb and you’ll see just how dumb that logic is.

            I even threw 9/11 in there just to make the example more significant and not just about Caucasian crime, more people were violently killed then than in decades within DC. Violence is not tied to race, unless you’re ignorant.

          • @ Anonymous at 1:37 pm -

            >> When someone gets knocked out by an Asian kid, let me know.

            Actually, the Virginia Tech Shooter was Asian, and so is Kim Jong Il. You’re not operating in reality, stay in school.

          • Yes, but what are the proportional risks?

            I’m reasonably certain that I’m more likely to be hit by lightning than mugged by an Asian-American in any community in the DC area, regardless of the hour of night.

            I’m reasonably certain that I’m more likely to be hit by a car than mugged by a European-American in any community in the DC area, regardless of the hour of night.

            I’m certain that there are communities in the DC area where I’m more likely to be mugged by an African-American than not, at some points in the evening.

            Whatever the reasons for that, these are people capable of moral reasoning who engage in violence against their fellow residents. There is no excuse, and there is no reason we can’t take steps to discourage these outrages.

    • If we follow your line of reasoning…then it’s okay for “J.O.’s to demand to see your tax returns on the spot or check your basements or trunks of your car to make sure you haven’t serial killed anyone today. Because the rate of white collar criminals and serial killers found in the white community is just alarming. I would support this type of police behavior. It’s good worthwhile policing.

      • anybody who supports this as good, worthwhile policing, can you please explain what doing this accomplishes?

        • i know! i know!
          -it wins elections for politicians that support it.
          -it furthers our prison industrial complex
          -it ensures disenfranchisement of the system
          -it fosters extremist views on both sides of the issue
          -it makes a percentage of the population feel safer

    • Agree wholeheartedly with this. It’s called policing.

      • Racial profiling works – just ask Israeli security at the airport. If your son had an issue with the police in the past, he’s probably not as innocent as you think (or as many people think their kids are). “Kids will be kids,” but I don’t know a single kid that I grew up with that had run ins with the po po. I agree that the behavior of the police was out of line and disrespectful, but your sons fit the profile of the violent criminals in the area. I get how you feel, but maybe the solution begins in the black community. There is a true lack of role models – other than rap stars and basketball players (don’t even get me started!)

        • Seriously??? you’re suggesting Apartheid is the answer to societies problems????

          • All of you who are equating a white guy not paying his taxes and black youth playing “the knockout game” are delusional apologists.

          • I think equating Israel with Apartheid says all we need about your ability to see past moral absolutes.

            They (and we) need to defend ourselves against those who’ve crossed the line into gratuitous acts of violence—however sympathetic their excuses for their bad acts.

        • Um have you ever flown through the Tel Aviv airport? I was strip searched and harassed for hours because of their stupid profiling antics and I am the least likely person to ever commit a crime of any kind much less blow up an airplane. I also have Global Entry and TSA Pre-check so the USG seems to think I’m a low travel risk.

          It’s easy to say profiling is awesome when it never happens to you. And for the record I’m a white female.

          • how were you profiled if youre a white female? Seems like they just stopped you for any number of reasons. If you were Palestinian and they stopped you, that would be profiling.

          • I was profiled because they profile young (ish) American women who work for NGOs working in Gaza and the West Bank. I had been in Ramallah working on a US-government funded project that has the full support of the Israeli government. But this happens to every single young woman I work with. It does not happen to any of the men who are not Arab or women over 50.

            The premise (I’m told, and I gathered during my naked questioning) is that young American women are susceptible to the whiles of beautiful Palestinian men who will convince us to blow ourselves up.

            There was literally nothing else, behavioral or otherwise that could have resulted in this treatment. It was a new passport so I didn’t have any suspect stamps from Arab countries and my behavior while standing in line consisted of standing while reading my kindle. It was my first time in the country (and last I hope after that experience) and I have no criminal record or anything otherwise suspicious that would come up on a background check nor did I have anything remotely questionable in my possession.

          • “It was my first time in the country (and last I hope after that experience)”
            .
            That’s the whole point of your humiliating treatment, from Israel’s perspective. The “you’ll become a suicide bomber” excuse is bullshit, obviously. It’s more about harassing people who want to help the Palastinians and prevent them from realizing their potential.
            .
            The gravy train keeps running for Israel, so long as Palastine is a shithole. If Palastine put down arms and focused on modernization, Israel would lose its backyard boogie man.

          • I wasn’t stripped searched, but it took me hours to get through immigration as well when entering Israel. I heard similar stories from a couple dudes in my hostel in Tel Aviv. We had very English last names and all pale white dudes. Fun times! While I did have Arab stamps in my passport (including Syria, so I somewhat understand), the British guys did not. One in fact had arrived to work at a kibbutz.

            Quality profiling there Israel.

          • Can you explain how Palestinian violence provides Israelis “gravy” or a “gravy train”?

    • I’m sure you support it — because it likely won’t happen to YOU.

    • How is randomly asking for the IDs of people on the street “worthwhile policing”? It seems like a waste of time to me.

      • I am not condoning it, but if they run your name, they would know if you have an outstanding warrant. Not sure that warrants (no pun intended) stopping random citizens (I tend to think it is a waste of time as well), but it could certainly be considered “policing” on some level, similar to how police officers run plates of cars that drive by them.

      • Even moreso given that the police claimed to know one of the sons, in which case they obviously don’t need his ID for any serious reason.

    • I’d say the most crime in DC is committed by white dudes in suits in suites downtown and on the Hill.

    • “Who commits the most crime in DC?” I don’t understand this particular perception of how the world works. Do you think that young black men are committing crime as young black men, as a coherent demographic? What the hell does a random black teen have to do with some other black teenager who mugs people?

      • Once anyone commits a crime, they become a young black teenager. 68 year old white woman jaywalks….now shes a 16 year old black teenager. duh

    • 1- Congressmen
      2- Middle aged
      3- Congress Building, congressional offices
      4- White
      5- Reagan National Airport, Lobbying jobs

    • brookland_rez

      Just because the majority of crimes are committed by black teenage males, doesn’t mean that the majority of black teenage males are committing crimes.

      • brookland_rez

        I clarify. Majority of violent street crime.
        Like another poster said below, “Unfortunately, the vast majority of tax cheats in this city are wealthy whites and I need to make sure you’re following the law.”, “The majority of homes located in Dupont Circle have illegally subletted basements not up to code and I need to determine if you’ve violated the law.”
        Other demographics commit the majority of other types of crimes, but that doesn’t mean that the majority of people in those demographics are committing crimes.

    • You know, I don’t have a lot of trouble with “aggressive” (read: pro-active) policing, but that’s not the same thing as just hassling and harrassing people.

      Moreover, there’s no evidence that harrassing people reduces crime.

      The jury is still out, but what happens to your argument for harrassing not-white and not-middle-aged or older people when stop-and-frisk (sanctioned harrassment) in NYC is stopped and we discover the crime rate doesn’t go up and the policy wasn’t responsible for it going down?

      Racial profiling is no more effective than having a lot of officers out and around – in case after case which is reported, the crime was stopped or solved by the proximity/presence of officers who were able to respond very quickly, often plainclothes, not undercover. If the MPD can afford undercover crews to harrass random people for being black-in-public, it seems to me they can afford to have foot patrols in some of the more choice loitering spots.

    • “Who commits the most crime in DC? ”

      This statistic has never been collected in any study, since it is impossible to measure every criminal act that occurs (reported and unreported) in a city with almost 700,000 people in it. That’s as absurd as asking “How many people put on their pants leg left leg first in DC?”. One could guess, but one would have no data with which to support that guess.

  • Although racial profiling sucks, I hate to say it, but I think it’s necessary. Just take a look at the demographics of committed crimes in this city. Every day. Again, it’s terrible, but not without reason.

    • “Although racial profiling sucks”

      Oh really, does it “suck”, someone who obviously would never have to deal with it outside of a thought experiment?

      • Actually, I have dealt with racial profiling on me both in DC and NYC. I still support stop and frisk measures as they have been proven to decrease crime in NYC.

        • Can you point me to the studies that prove that Stop and Frisk has reduced crime in NYC?

          • Yeah, don’t hold your breath on that one since studies in fact don’t show that.

          • Anonymous–

            I know that. It seems that Tim here doesn’t.

          • It’s a bit difficult to have a ‘study’ on that, as it has more to do with deterrence. I can tell you this – I would never carry anything illegal on me in NYC no matter what the circumstance. And that’s not to say that I would ever carry something illegal – I’m simply saying the stop and frisk measures put the fear of God into law breakers.

          • Tim, above: “I still support stop and frisk measures as they have been proven to decrease crime in NYC.”

            Tim, later: “It’s a bit difficult to have a ‘study’ on that, as it has more to do with deterrence.”

            Your words speak for themselves.

          • Tim, your intellectual dishonesty is outstanding. How do you live with such cognitive dissonance?
            .
            Like, are you so simple minded that it doesn’t even register with you? Or did you suffer some sort of trauma at the hands of a POC that you just project everyone matching that description as being a “bad apple”?
            .
            It astounds me that some individuals see groups of other people in such black/white dichotomy. I’m pretty sure it’s got to be some sort of low level Austism dysfunction.

          • lol u guys mad?

          • I wasn’t with Tim either, but come on guys. CTFO.

    • Do you have any proof that it actually helps prevent crime?

    • Sir, can I please see your taxes? Unfortunately, the vast majority of tax cheats in this city are wealthy whites and I need to make sure you’re following the law.
      .
      Mr. Homeowner, I am going to need to inspect your basement apartment. The majority of homes located in Dupont Circle have illegally subletted basements not up to code and I need to determine if you’ve violated the law.
      .
      Can you not see how this leads to tyranny? How this is completely unconstitutional to its core? Or do you just not care because it’s not happening to you?
      .
      Furthermore, how can you expect minorities to WANT to participate in civil society and follow it’s rules, if you kick them while they are young children and tell them that they don’t deserve the same liberties afforded to whites? How can you not question the credibility of this SYSTEM?

      • + 1,000,000

      • I agree with you principally, but I just don’t think it’s apples to apples. Violent crime, theft, etc., belong in a separate bin as illegally subletted basements and not paying your taxes in full (although the latter is more egregious than the former).

        • Crime is crime is crime.

          The reason why we have a Constitution is to prevent the state from overreaching, period.

  • What was the incident a while back?

  • Would love to hear more about this aspect of the story:

    “Then another officer says they’d had an “incident” with one of my boys a while back, so they did have a reason to stop him and check him. I said I hoped they took care of the problem then because we sure weren’t causing a problem now. Meanwhile, a few people are gathering telling me to stand my ground.”

    • Conveniently left out of the story…..

      • +1. You’re not getting the whole story, hence why I am totally skeptical about this woman’s account. Makes for a great sympathy piece with all the predictable “oh you poor thing” comments, but color me wary.

        • A Non – sense boy doubting the world.

          Go figure. Show some respecit and speak up with a name, at least a made up one.

      • Or perhaps the cop was just BSing to cover his ass. If there truly was an incident that justifies the cops’ behaivor, why would she include it in her story at all? Why just a part of it since it just weakens her story and does nothing to strengthen it?

      • Tim, no matter what the incident was, what on Earth would asking the boys for their IDs do? It’s a worthless exercise that wastes the time of police and the people they stop.

    • My intuition is that the cop made it up, that’s what the mother is insinuating. Cops lie ALL THE TIME. It’s part of doing their job.
      .
      The most overused blatant lie is “I smell marijuana.” All a cop needs to do is say that and they will use that as a reason to search your person or vehicle. Even if it’s not remotely true.
      .
      The legal and prison system in this country is an utter joke, full of inconsistencies and loopholes. Nearly everyone involved in this – from judges, to cops, to prosecutors, to jailers – are a leech on society and a drain on this country’s human and financial capital. The legal system has done more harm than good to the citizens of the U.S.

  • Racial profiling is, to an extent, understandable (from a human nature perspective). But this is unacceptable. Good for the OP for standing up for herself in this situation. Maybe if the MPD officers would get out of their cars more often, they’d actually stop some crimes instead of waiting for the opportunity to harass random people on the street.

    • I think that saying MPD “harassed” anyone is likely a stretch in this instance. I’m more inclined to think that when the civilian escalated the situation by becoming defiant, confrontational, and non-compliant, and encouraged her children to do the same, the officers naturally raised their guard and responded with a stronger presence to maintain the control of the interaction.
      .
      Rule #1 of dealing with a police officer: BE POLITE and respectful, and 99% of the time you will get the same in return and the whole situation de-escalates from the first words. “Good evening Officer – can I help you with something?” is usually met with “Good evening Ma’am – yes, in fact, ____”. Inversely, “WTF are you harassing me for!?!” is almost always met with a less polite response from the officer.
      .
      Rule #2 of dealing with a police officer: BE COMPLIANT. As long as they are not asking you to do something illegal like get naked and have sex with them on the hood of the cruiser, just go along with it. “May I see you ID, please?” should be met with “Sure thing, officer – it is in my back pocket. May I reach back and get it for you?”. If you think that what’s happening to you is wrong or constitutionally questionable, stay calm, stay polite, stay compliant, and focus on trying to note and remember details – names, badge numbers, car numbers, number of officers, does it look like there’s a dash cam in the car, etc. Deal with any and all concerns about the constitutionality or social justice elements of your encounter LATER. Be compliant NOW.
      .
      Being defiant, belligerent, confrontational, impolite, or hostile (aka “standing up for yourself” and what you *think* your rights are) in any way will guarantee you an unpleasant encounter with the police 100% of the time, and that will lead to both your memory and your attitude towards the encounter being tainted. If your rights actually were violated, you’ve ended your chances of a judge or jury finding you credible.
      .
      Plus, you’ve seriously increased your likelihood of being arrested or shot now and of being stopped more often later. The police remember who has been belligerent before and will stop them again and again, which is, I’m guessing, exactly what happened here. Seeing the example this woman set for her two sons when she was with them, I can only imagine that she has never talked to them about WHY the two rules above exist and matter, and that when they were stopped before, they acted like defiant little punks. And if that is the case, being stopped over and over and over is just them reaping what they sow, and I do not feel even a little bit bad for them.

      • I don’t want to live in a country where the police can stop me for no reason and require my “politeness” and “compliance.” I see we come to this from very different perspectives, but don’t you see that the police stopping them for no reason (they couldn’t articulate a reason) is already “harassing” them?

        • It is no more “harassing” than one of my neighbors stopping me to ask if they can borrow my weed whacker or to ask if I’ve seen their missing cat. If a police officer approaches me and wants to talk to me, I treat it 100% the same as any other interaction with anyone else in my neighborhood who approaches me in a friendly way and engages in a conversation. I’ve found in life that if you approach any interaction with another person with an unpleasant, confrontational attitude, you are 100% guaranteed to have an unpleasant, confrontational experience in the next 60 seconds. If you approach it with politeness and curiosity, you will probably have a polite, pleasant experience and might even learn something new.
          .
          Besides, usually, if an officer is approaching a civilian on the street, they want to talk about something I’d probably be interested in finding out about anyway – if they’re on the look out for robbers who look like me or some such thing, I need to know that. In fact, I’d like details. One side of the story said there was no reason – I find that dubious, but still possible.
          .
          If you don’t want to live in a country that requires you are polite and compliant with the police, btw, you will find yourself nation-less in fairly short order. Obeying the police is the law everywhere (and has been here since day one) and a nation that does not encourage polite civility is not somewhere I want to be. Reminds me too much of what DC is finally growing out of!

          • You are clearly a member of a group that has never consistently been subjugated, dominated, or subject to harassment. Happy life, friend. Continue in your delightful delusional smugness. And just keep thinking that it’s because you’re courteous that you aren’t mistreated.

          • Why are you living in Shaw if you dislike black people so much? You’re a self-flagellating masochist. Just move to Bethesda, you’ll lead a much happier life,

          • I don’t want to defend ShawGuy here but where did he say he dislikes black people?

          • @C3PO – I actually am a minority that gets routinely subjugated and harassed. I don’t let that become my identity.

            @anonymous7:04 – I have no dislike for black people whatsoever. I dislike criminals. While there is an overlap there, the two groups are not synonymous. And NO, I will not move to Bethesda. I actually think that working towards a safe community everywhere ought to be a common goal of all of us, and find it disgusting that you seem to think the people of Shaw don’t deserve safety.

  • Ah, I have been waiting for something like this. Its the officers fault correct, for profiling yet many of them were black. Seems you’re frustration should be aimed at all the youth that give your sons the bad image. You acknowledge they fit the description of most of the perps committing crime in the city yet your mad that the officers are questioning them. Be mad at the low lives creating that image.
    What happened was unfortunate but if it is true one of you’re sons had been involved with the police before then it may be even more evident why the routine stop. Maybe next time instead of throwing out the race card and creating a scene explain to the officers that you are these young gentlemen’s mother and although they fit the description of a lot of the youth causing trouble you assure them you’re boys are not them. Show your ID’s then move along.
    We all get profiled, white, black, walkers, drivers, bikers, etc. Unfortunately the few bad eggs seem to paint the picture for everybody. Welcome to the times we live in. Be focused on explaining the truths to your son’s and raise them as good gentleman.

    • +1 Million

    • The youths aren’t the ones who stopped her.

      • It’s funny because a couple of days ago on POP there were people agreeing that you should turn around, cross the street, find a public place when you see a group of young men fitting this woman’s sons description. Why, because innocent people are getting terrorized by youths that have no idea how to be and are not being taught how to be good human beings. unfortunately in DC they happen to be African American a lot.
        But know we are mad that cops are asking some kids that apparently have had an incident before to show IDs. Don’t get me wrong seems the cops have gone about it the wrong way, as well as the mother but lets not hide from the truths, that gets us no where

        • Actually, two boys with their mother doesn’t fit the description of six unsupervised teenagers. Mistaking the two gets to the crux of your racial reductionism.

        • “It’s funny because a couple of days ago on POP there were people agreeing that you should turn around, cross the street, find a public place when you see a group of young men fitting this woman’s sons description.”

          Please find the post where someone said “if you see two black teenagers walking with a middle-aged white woman, you should turn around, cross the street, find a public place when you see a group of young men fitting this woman’s sons description.” Oh yeah, that never happened.

          • even if it did, citizens avoiding one another on the street for prejudicial reasons is totally different from the government racially profiling and harassing people.

    • How do you know she is not frustrated by the criminal behavior of young African-Americans? Her job is to protect her family at that moment without worrying about the larger public policy issue. She showed them how to be gentleman who are aware of their constitutional rights. Based on her account, there was no reasonable suspicion for the stop.

    • Uh, no. That they “fit the description” is only in the context of a socially fabricated racial dichotomy. The youths responsible for crime are the ones committing the crimes. The only people culpable in treating an innocent stranger like a criminal are the ones treating an innocent stranger like a criminal, especially if those people justify by “you’re black like most criminals”.

    • if you treat someone or a people like criminals long enough then they will eventually become criminals.

      • Seriously. Have cops never heard of cause & effect?
        Someone should stop the police while they’re out grocery shopping with their kids or going for a walk. Let’s see how they react.

    • What is does it mean that they’d had an “incident” with the son? That they’d stopped him inappropriately before and he questioned it? This is exactly the problem. A cop harasses a black teenager, which directly causes an incident, and then that incident provides the justification to harass him the next time. Repeat.

  • This sucks, and I respect how horrible it must feel.

    THAT SAID – if you aren’t going to report badge numbers, vehicle numbers, officer names or other information to their superior and the public then I don’t think this report does anything for us or the community.

    The only way we change this (or at least their approach and behavior while doing it) is through accountability. If all you do is write a vague blog post about it then nothing will ever change.

  • I watch the Jump Out cars terrorize my neighborhood everyday. Its disgusting. To live in constant fear of police running on you, throwing you on the ground, demanding your ID, calling you names, accusing you of things, all for being on your front porch, hanging out with neighbors, or just walking to the corner store is just horrid and traumatizing. I have a friend who gets attacked by jjump out cars every single time he tries to go running for exercise IN HIS OWN NEIGHBORHOOD. The cops should feel ashamed enforcing such hatred and discriminatory policies. No one should be made to feel a criminal 24/7 by agents of the state and that is what jump out cars do .Those that support these policies do so out of their own ignorance and fears and because they never have to be the one profiled constantly.

  • In the past two days in that area, I’ve seen one guy with an incredibly heavy-duty chain draped over his shoulder (as in, ready for action as a weapon, not as a necklace or something) and one guy with a big wooden club. Maybe they’re carrying these things for self defense, but I’d like to see the cops focus on stopping people who are openly carrying weapons like this.

    • “an incredibly heavy-duty chain draped over his shoulder”

      I see quite a few bikers use those to lock up their bikes.

    • why, when they can harass random black teens that are taking a walk with their mother? why focus on people carrying what appear to be weapons? that would resemble real police work.

    • The mall is covered with people carrying baseball bats all summer. Can we lock those people up too?

    • This gentleman did not appear to be an avid biker. Nor did he have a bike, which begs the question…why do you have a bike lock?

      I didn’t say arrest them; I’m saying if the police are going around with the intent of stopping and frisking people, maybe there are better candidates than the OP and her sons…

  • 10-11 officers surround this woman and her sons. Wonder how many people were being robbed while this was happening?

  • I cannot believe there are people here who condone this kind of police behavior. SAF had not shown to reduce crime in nyc, or anywhere that it is blindly implemented. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the police misidentified the OPs boys and claimed they had an incident with them and actually just confused them with either black teenagers…or even worse, assumed that they must have been miscreants by virtue of the fact that they were black. As a person of color, I’m used to getting blamed for things that I had nothing to do with, because my coworkers, colleagues, or others couldn’t be bothered to learn to distinguish me from the one other person of color in my office.
    .
    I consider it my fundamental right to not get stopped while walking down the street when I am engaging in perfectly legal behavior. The police demanding to see my id is one step away from them coming into your house and searching through your things with no cause or warrant…if you lived in an area where there was illegal activity going on nearby, would you allow the police to come into your house and search through your stuff whenever they felt like it just because you happened to live close by?

    • +100 on all of this.
      .
      The jackboot authority fascists in this thread are insane. Then again, this being DC, they are probably benefiting in some way from this unjust system (jobs and money).

  • Glad to hear the police are being proactive. The senseless attacks and robberies in DC are completely out of hand. We need tougher sentencing including making the parents responsible.

    • “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

      • @story of the usa obviously you are someone who is lucky enough to never be the victim of a random violent crime

        • Yeah I don’t think Benjamin Franklin could have forseen violent crime when he advised that.

        • And so your answer is to stop EVERYONE who is a person of color, simply because you might be or were once a victim? Why does every innocent person lose their rights, because you were a victim? What about victims of crime where the perpetrator was white? Should all whites be stopped?
          .
          What about rapes on the GWU and Georgetown campuses, which are overwhelmingly committed by young white men? Should we stop and search them for date rape drugs on Friday and Saturday nights?
          .
          Good sir, you deserve neither the liberty nor the security the Constitution affords you. I think you’d be better off living in a security state – like China – if you want absolute control.

      • FIND a new quote… that one has no weight any longer…

        • It’s a famous classic quote because of its timelessness. I don’t think the unprecedented advent of scary black muggers robs it of its relevance.

        • Find a new country? I heard North Korea and China are nice at this time of the year.

    • Proactive stopping 3 people from walking down the street? WTF?? As someone else noted, how many robberies were taking place while 10-11 cops were surrounding these 3?

      Not proactive, waste of manpower in this case.

    • She states that one of the officers had an issue with her son. She doesn’t deny her angel has had trouble with the law.

      • The cops say this to EVERY black man they stop, whether or not it’s true. Yes, the police lie – usually on a daily basis. They create “probable cause” out of thin air..
        .
        Do you really not know how this world works? Have you led that sheltered of an existence?

      • The cop said he’d had an “incident” with her son before, and now he’s had an “incident” with the mom (loosely defined as “knowing her rights”). And now he’ll feel justified stopping her again.

  • Why would you not want to set an example to your children and comply with the officers? I work in a bar and ask people for their id for proof of age all the time. The only flac I get is from people just over 21 or people using a fake id. Granted, you weren’t doing anything to require proof of identification at the time; yet it isn’t a big deal. I have been in your situation a few times (<5) and prefer a proactive officer vsa reactive one.

    • Why the hell should she do that? Really?? F that.

      Just look at who gets screwed over in the legal system. Those who comply and don’t stand up for their rights. Lawyer the hell up quickly and don’t fall for police bullshit.

      Getting ID’d at a bar is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT than being stopped by a group of cops while walking down the street. Talk about apples and oranges.

      So you’ve been stopped by 10-11 cops a few times? And that didn’t bother you? Didn’t make you at least feel a little uncomfortable and think what’s this all about??

      • I have been stopped by officers on 3 occasions, twice just blocks from my home which is on 7th and Jefferson NW. Each time I produced my id, never did this escalate to 10-11 officers, which I believe this woman’s encounter caused. At first it did bother me, but after reflection I realized the officers were doing their job. I have been mugged twice and my house has been hit by gang cross-fire. Yes it is intrusive, yes it is uncomfortable, yes I am willing to put up with these hassles in the hope that someone, at some point, is saved from harm. It is, unfortunately, part of living in the city. I do understand being carded at a bar is completely different than getting asked on the street to see id, but if she had simply complied it never would have escalated. I simply used the bar analogy to show that most people do not have a problem showing id if they do not have something to hide, which, if her son has had a run in with officers before, perhaps they, or he, may.

    • There is no legal requirement that US citizens carry ID with them at all times. its not even close to the same as buying a drink. One is going about your business, walking down a public street, and the other is entering a private establishment and attempting to do something that is only legal for them to do if you are of a certain age. Can you see the difference?

    • As you, yourself point out, people coming into a bar with known age restrictions can reasonably expect to have their IDs checked. Walking down the street is NOT an activity that should require proof of identification. It may not be a ‘big deal’ to you personally, but that doesn’t make it legal, appropriate, or right. It’s also not a way to instill positive community values in the people that this repeatedly and abusively happens to.

    • lovefifteen

      TK, would you honestly be okay with a group of police surrounding you every day as you walk down 14th Street and demanding that you show them your ID? Purchasing alcohol is not analogous to walking down the street.

  • Maybe if the couple thousand crew members would stop packing heat and shooting up the place at 2am in alleys all over the city each weekend, and stop having fun with the knock out game, we wouldn’t have to have so many cops trying their best to figure out how to stem the violence and keep these kids from plauging our city with violence?!

  • I empathize with the OP, I am saddened yet not surprised by the comments here. Most likely from a number of privileged people who choose to move to “trendy” neighborhoods and then clutch their pearls when those neighborhoods have unsavory elements. We live in a city, that city is unsafe. That’s not to say that our community should not do it’s best to decrease crime and make our neighborhoods safe. However, regardless of whether you find utility in stop and identify practices, it is discriminatory. Most people who are non minorities will never know how disheartening it is to be perceived as a criminal based solely upon the color of your skin.

    • Those folks commenting in support of these unconstitutional practices are probably those who profit off the fucked up system that is the Good Ole USA. They support the security state because it lines their pockets and helps afford that nice townhouse in Columbia Heights. The more we live in fear, the more they profit.
      .
      Making money is the most important right of all in this country.

  • ALL the problems could be solved (at least mitigated) with more beat cops. If officers were around and getting to know the residents, they would know that this lady and her kids are long-time residents, and that the boys are generally good eggs. (If the letter writer is the same regular PoP poster I think she is.) And, if one of the boys did get up to no good, the officer would know exactly where to find his mother, and would know that she would discipline him for it.
    By the same token, a good beat cop would know when trouble was brewing and know who the troublemakers are. They’d have the instincts to spot an iphone snatching in the making. They’d be close enough to stop it, or to grab the kid who snatched it, instead of needing to be dispatched through 911 from 8 blocks away.
    Chief Lanier, why can’t we have some foot patrols whose job is to be eyes and ears on the street, to get to know the residents, to be proactive and helpful? I recognize some of the officers who are assigned to my area, but they don’t recognize me, because they’re always either in conversation with other officers, or heads-down in their cars. It’s no wonder they don’t know a person even *I* know, from nothing but reading her comments on this blog.

  • Please read Brian Beutler’s account of being shot by a young black man. The upshot:

    “In the preceding 25 years, I’d crossed paths with thousands and thousands of black people (including, obviously, those who became friends). Over the same stretch I’d also crossed paths with thousands and thousands of people wearing hoodies (there was surely some overlap). I got very, very unlucky one time. Adding it all up, I figured my odds of avoiding a repeat of that night are pretty good.

    And that’s ultimately what I want everyone, but particularly future victims of crime, to take away from my story. You can’t tell victims how they should react to the crimes committed against them. That’s wrong, and anyhow it’s largely out of their control. But to anyone whose instinct is to crouch defensively and treat everyone who resembles their attackers like criminals, I’m living proof that there’s another way.

    Everyone who’s ever shot me was black and wearing a hoodie. There just aren’t any reasonable inferences to draw from that fact.”

    It’s deeply injust to treat every young black man as a criminal. And might be justifiable if racial profiling worked. But it doesn’t.

  • It’s not just being stopped it being treated like $H*t when you are stopped. I think the police make many situations worse. I was stopped by officers riding in a patrol car once. The officer in the passenger seat pointed at me, rolled his finger and said “you, come’re” ordering me to walk over to the car. Really? It’s OK for you to talk to me like that Mr. Toughguy. Young people are going to trust and respect cops when they are innocent and get treated like that? Officers don’t even try to create an environment for having a civil interaction. When officers are stopping people they should be required to say, “Hello my name is (blank) I am stopping you sir, ma’am/ young lady (man) because …” Obviously this would not be in play if they are pursuing an actual suspect or if a person is aggressive but police should be required to be respectful of those they stop. It goes without saying that the stop should be legal

    DC needs beat cops that engage and know the people in the area. That will create change. You will see people willing to reach out to officers and assist them.

  • As a white man, I sometimes get strange looks and asked’ “Are you sure, it’s really spice?” when I order spicy food at a Mexican or Thai place. I find this to be insulting and a bit annoying, and this is being asked if I am sure I want to order spicy food. Nothing in my life will ever allow me to comprehend what it is like trying to grow up in DC, or any American city, as a black male. I can’t say I understand, I will never understand, I can only try to imagine what it must be like and I can’t imagine a scenario where I had to deal with that on a regular basis and didn’t wind up hating authority.

    • +1, as a privileged white dude I’m in the same boat. Look at how most people like us react to getting mugged, or even to living in a dangerous neighborhood: With reactionary support for policing like this and a serious distrust of most young black men.
      -
      So how about being subjected to this treatment, or even just having friends who are subject to this treatment, at the hands of the police your whole life? What kind of attitude do cops expect this to instill? I would hate police, and the whole political system in general, if this shit happened to me all the time.

  • Sounds like a painful ordeal. However, let’s be realistic. We all know the crime stats in DC (violent crimes, robberies, and annoying crap like slamming people’s cars/property/throwing stones, etc.). Maybe the cops though the kids were harrasing the lady and trying to protect her. I don’t know! I’m glad the cops are out there patrolling. We don’t need more incidents.

  • Record these stops. Every time you’re approached by the police, record them. If you do it openly know that the recording may “disappear”. You’re under no obligation to tell them that you are recording (public space with no expectation of privacy, public officials performing public duties), so go ahead and do it surreptitiously..there are a number of apps that allow you to record, but if your phone is checked, it doesn’t appear to be recording.
    Go ahead and use that recording to sue the pants off your local police force.

    • Yeah, that’s asking to get shot at by the police. They’ll say they thought you were going for a gun, your phone’s screen reflected the light and looked like a weapon. That’s the worst case. Best case is your phone gets “dropped” and destroyed.

  • The fact is, DC is as safe now as it’s been in 50 years. Yeah, we should continue to work on bringing crime rates down. Yeah, there are parts of the city that are still dangerous. But most of the residents of this city will never be the victim of a violent crime. [That's especially true if you're not in a gang or involved in the drug trade.] Most of the residents of this city, of any race, will never commit a violent crime. If you think that we need to harass law-abiding black people on the street in the name of “preventing crime”, it’s pretty clear that you’re just terrified of black people. That’s your problem, not theirs.

  • A lot of you are so far removed from reality it is wild to me

    also a lot of you in support of this behavior im sure will never have to know how it feels to be in a situation like this

    i understand why you are insupport, but it just isnt right
    and most of the time isnt handled correctly by the officers

    i was put in a terrible situation bt the Atlanta “red dogs” walkin home from my college campus.

    again. you will NENER understand it

  • Former NYC cop here, and current DC one….
    Just a few observations:
    I was part of a JO team in NYC, but they call it Anti-Crime there. We didn’t stop kids with their mothers. It sounds like this was just an intimidation stop, which is clearly wrong. However, this “incident” is mentioned, which is never discussed. She didn’t ask what the incident was, so we can’t really draw any conclusions. If her kid is a punk and the cops wanted to let her know her kid was a punk by embarrassing him by stopping him with his mom, then this is still wrong, but makes more sense. I saw a lot of parents who didn’t care what havoc their kids caused, which was depressing to say the least.

    Also, regarding SQF. This is not a policy. It’s a police form. A piece of paperwork that the job requires to be filled out when you detain someone or pat them down. This form became a statistic used to battle crime. You have a robbery problem that is open with no arrests? You need 250s (UF 250 is the form name) to clear it. Much like you need 10 injuries to get a stop sign at an intersection and 1 fatality for a stop light. Officers were required to turn in 5 forms a night, so that means you had to stop 5 people. Maybe 2 would have been stopped by you anyway, but three of them are getting stopped because you don’t want to hear it from your Sgt,

    Stopping people who look shady and giving them a quick toss is not profiling. Its police work. If there was a white guy who was bald robbing people with a knife on a certain block, I would be jacking up bald white guys. Profiling also got it’s name from store owners following only black kids around stores to prevent theft. Yet across the river, it loses some meaning as the vast majority of people there are black to begin with. They should stop white people for drug sales. (We did this in Harlem, btw, much to their liberal angst)

    • As a white guy, I suggest that you start stopping and frisking white people in DC. Actually, I BEG you to do it. People need to understand what it’s like and if you’re stopping 5 people anyway to make bullshit numbers, then just make them part of it.
      .
      The intimidation either needs to (1) stop or (2) be spread more fairly across EVERYONE in this city. You know how many white folks are walking around with drugs on them? Or breaking other laws? Plenty.

      • Personally I would prefer that cops concentrate on dealing with violent crime rather than drugs, which frankly should be a non-crime. And when it comes to violent crime, I literally cannot remember the last time I heard about one in DC and the suspect was white. Just sayin.

        • drugs are a “non-crime” only to the last couple of links the chain, the person using, and maybe the buddy he got it from. trace it back a little more and you’d be shocked at what your innocent activity is supporting.

          • +1 million. I don’t support heavy enforcement and prosecution of minor drug possession because I think it’s a waste of time and money.

            But I do side eye all of the people who are into fair trade coffee or cotton or chocolate but still use drugs with indeterminate supply chains. If it’s unethical to eat Hershey’s because of child slavery in Cote D’Ivoire then it’s unethnical to use weed or coke unless you know precisely where it came from, and how, at every step of the supply chain.

  • They probably thought her kids were hustling her for something so they wanted to check it out. They probably felt awkward when they found out that she was their mother. Sign of the DC times at the moment. Unfortunate.

  • houseintherear

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. It’s a bunch of crap, and those officers should be punished. As a teacher, I can tell you that we spend day after day helping our kids combat bullies and learn to be positive members of society… How sad that they may some day have to see police officers acting in the exact manner we teach them to avoid. “Free” society, my aunt fannie.

  • My heart breaks when I read stories like this. YES proactive policing in a ‘big’ city is necessary, BUT it needs to be done the right way for it to be effective. The OP should not be criticized for questioning the police or for not readily complying, she should be applauded for standing up for herself and for her sons in a respectful way. She didn’t scream or threaten (as far as we know) she simply voiced concerns with what was happening. As a chicana in an interracial relationship I pray to all powers that be, that when we are ready to bring children into this world that they won’t have to deal with this sort of profiling.

  • The “incident” I learned later FROM MY BOYS involved their trying to get some hot water at a 7-11 for their to-go soup. They didn’t ask, they just went in and got it, and the store manager thought something was up and asked them to leave. It was a while ago. I don’t even know if that’s the whole story. The point is, do they need to be stopped for the rest of their lives over this?

    My kids are not angels; they’ve had run-ins with the law, but have never been arrested. I like to compare notes with my suburban friends with sons, and know the struggles with teenage boys are largely the same across class and race. Some of their sons have already seen jail time or been arrested for DUI. I coach up my kids at every chance I get. I tell them to avoid certain areas. I tell them to pull up their pants. I tell them to talk to the police. (“Hell no, I’m not talking to no police when all they do is want to stop me all the time and ask for my ID. Hell no,” they say. Good community relations, that.)

    I think the police largely know my kids because they live in the area. They’ve been stopped enough times, they certainly must know their names and where they live.

    To respond to another point, yes, I showed my ID. The situation was becoming heated enough that I didn’t want to get cuffed and thrown into a police car. I maintained my calm but definitely felt the need to protect my children from the continued harassment.

    I understand those that want more proactive policing. I’ve been a victim of crime by teenagers. I also have crossed the street when I’ve felt the need to. Mostly, I try to make eye contact and say hello as I want to feel part of my community. I also am aware, when I’m walking with my sons, of other people tensing up as they approach. I try to alleviate the situation by saying something to my boys (“so how was your job today?”) to indicate they are with me, and we are normal and safe. I immediately sense the relief of the other people. It’s weird, but it’s real. I really don’t know the answer, but I don’t think this is it, and I don’t think Chief Lanier thinks it is either.

    Maybe a better approach would have been, “Ma’am, we had a robbery an hour ago, and they said it was a middle-age white woman who desperately needs a haircut and probably should have her roots done. You look like that, will you please show us some ID?” Then I’d at least know what was going on.

    Kidding aside, I think it’s an important conversation to have. I tried not to be one-sided, as some suggested. I too wondered if the police thought maybe I was being harassed, except that I was walking with my arm around one of my sons who was feeling under the weather.

    Have a good and safe holiday and keep talking to each other.

    • it sucks you and your children had to go through that.

    • You sound like a good mom. It’s not easy to raise teenagers. And unfortunately, you know all too well that mistakes made by black teenagers follow them in a way that white teens never have to think about. Keep up the good work.

  • I think a lot of people think that SAF is no big deal because they don’t understand how disruptive it is. Aside from being demeaning, being stopped all the time can be time consuming, and can result in inappropriate detention or incarceration. Imagine if you are in a hurry to get to an important interview and you get stopped and end up being late. This happened to me at sfo when my connecting flight came in late, and I was running to catch my flight. The task agents thought I looked suspicious because I was nervous (I was about to miss my connection) and I’m frankly not the color of brown that people like. I got pulled into a room and searched. Usually because of my color I get the extra pat down and I budget for this, but I think because I’m a woman I don’t get the full search. I ended up missing my connection, as well as an important interview. None of the other people from my flight who also experienced delays and tight connections were pulled aside. When stop and frisk and blind racial profiling is accepted by people who don’t appreciate the consequences and think it’s just an inconvenience that people should just learn to deal with, that kind of behavior gets institutionalized and we all lose.
    .
    My fellow brown folk have learned to budget an extra two hours to get through airport security because of racial profiling. The infuriating thing is that many of us are not of the same extraction as any supposed terrorists, I have many Sikh friends who happen to be brown, and are profiled as terrorists even though not a single act of terror has been committed by a Sikh. How would you like it if you couldn’t get an appointment with your oncologist because they there stuck in a room getting strip searched for no apparent reason? Or if your father was having a heart attack but the cardiologist had to leave early on the off chance that they were going to get stopped on the way Hime for the holidays?

    • I know it’s a minor point and a quibble, but Sikhs have committed terrorist acts, e.g., the Indira Gandhi assassination and the Air India flight 182 bombing. But if your point is (as I expect) along the lines that Sikhs in turbans are not Muslims nor Al Qaeda sympathizers/affiliates/terrorists and that white love-it-or-leave-it Americans have committed many terrorist acts without being subject to increased scrutiny while traveling – fair enough.

      • Good point. I should have been more clear: none of the acts of domestic terror or violent acts aimed at Americans have been perpetrated by Sikhs yet they are routinely profiled in the US as terrorists. I cannot comment for actions taken overseas.

    • I travel every single week by air and I have never seen anyone of any color get detained or have an “extra pat down.” I’m sure it very, very, very occasionally happens, but it is extremely rare.

      • Really? I get “randomly selected” for a pat down almost every single time I travel. I’ve only gotten searched twice but I would say 99% of the time I travel I get the pat down. I always budget an extra hour for airport security because they always have to find a woman to Axminster the pat down and sometimes that means waiting an extra 10 minutes just for the pleasure of the pat down.
        .
        I might seem rare because it doesn’t happen to you. It’s a fact of life for brown people.

        • I observe the people around me, of all colors, and have never seen an incident like this. Have flown just under 100,000 miles this year domestically.

          there are random bomb screens (where they swab your hands) in the line, and occasionally TSA will set up a stand next to boarding zones and pull people aside to search bags, but it is extraordinarily rare and is vigilantly random (the white woman who posted below that she got searched is a good example ) and not targeted to other races. Budgeting an extra hour is completely crazy.

      • Ha! Travel with my husband sometime. He is an American of middle eastern descent, and looks damn fine in his full beard. We ALWAYS budget an extra hour domestically and an extra two hours internationally. And we ALWAYS need them. I have spent more hours kicking my heels in some grubby back corridor outside a “little room” than I can count.
        It’s a little better when I’m with him. Once, while traveling alone, he was stopped FIVE TIMES between security and his gate. “Excuse me, sir. Random security screening. May I see your ID and boarding pass?” Five times in 100 yards, I kid you not.

      • WRONG. I have friends that get that special “SSS ” and pat down/pulled into a private room and interviewed EVERY SINGLE TIME they fly. Granted I also have a friend who was denied entry into Canada bc of an interview with Bloomberg that turned out a wee bit embarrassing.

    • Actually, I flew just last Sunday and was pulled aside on my way onto the plane and fully patted down and had my bags completely searched. I am a white woman.

      • I’m a white male, professional, and I’ve had my bags searched and had the pat down at airport security a bunch of times. I just assumed the TSA girls were flirting with me. Now I learn it’s random? You’re destroying my ego here, guys. :)

  • Let’s not over complicate… young black men commit most violent crime in this city not because they are inherently bad people but because they come from broken families with no father figure to a woman that most likely didn’t finish school because she got knocked up and didn’t come from a loving family herself… its a vicious cycle plain and simple. BTW – stop and frisk works, ask the older blacks living in the projects in BK and the Bronx… they are in favor of it.

    • Anecdote is not the same as data, which doesn’t show SAF to be effective. It’s good PR though apparently.

    • Of course they’re not inherently bad people. But that doesn’t negate the fact that that group is primarily the one committing violent crime in the city and the reason why people are wary.

  • Every time I go into a bar, the guy asks me for my ID. Every time I fly on a plane, two or three people at different points in the airport ask for my ID. Every time you buy cigarettes, they ask for ID. Many times when I have used a credit card, I am asked for ID. I probably pull my ID out of my wallet 500+ times every year for one reason or another. Why have a problem with a cop asking you for it?
    .
    I could spend my time wondering if the cop is “profiling” me, or if the TSA guy, the CVS clerk, the bouncer at the bar, or my waiter is “profiling” me as a terrorist / underage person / unauthorized user of that credit card / etc. Or I could just realize that showing it to people and proving you are who you say you are is the ENTIRE POINT of having ID, and that I have other things to do with my time.

  • Threads like this are just a massive LOL. On one side are those people who believe in the golden deliciousness of society; that there could never be a reason to put people in bins and that we are all equally law-breaking and evil. On the other side are those people who believe that there is no flexibility in stereotyping, and that if something happens one way, it’s a predictable pattern.

    Yes, it’s nothing more than strawman argument to say that a white male committing “white-collar crime” by renting out a basement apartment is the same as a black teenager knocking someone out for fun. The latter is much more jarring to society than the former, and violent crimes are still a considerable problem in this city. Moreover, the fear of violent crimes is what drives folks to racially profile, and what drives policing strategies. Much like airport security, there’s a reason Middle Easterners (LIKE MYSELF) are routinely pulled out of security lines for extra screening, or eyed suspiciously when finding a seat on a plane. I know the black folks are going to tell me “it’s not the same as being racially profiled by the police” because I’m not being handcuffed or interrogated in public, and I accept that. But that’s not what I’m getting at. It’s the mindset that forces people of authority to act this way.

    On the other hand, it’s also a cop-out argument to say that effective policing occurs by doing random checks on people without cause. In Iraq and Afghanistan, part of the COIN strategy included setting up checkpoints for random personal and vehicular inspection to discourage militants from moving around weapons or conducting violent actions. Well, we all know how that strategy went.

    BUT, it doesn’t mean that the motivation behind the strategy is wrong. Security forces, be they police, military, whatever, need to establish a pattern of behavior from which to act.

    Effective policing, as the lady who wrote the letter to MPD, comes from buidling relationships, as we saw again in IRQ and AFG. But, that “carrot” is best served with the occasional, ***well-targeted***, stick that demonstrates to miscreants and potential criminals that police still hold the authority.

    I will not get into the effects of family and society on the development of youth, because I don’t have unlimited time.

    • Thanks for your insights, but American citizens rightfully have more laissez-faire expectations as citizens about their relationship with authorities. It’s addressed directly throughout the entirety of the Bill of Rights, and there’s even an amendment that addresses racial discrimination. Sorry, but there’s literally no justifiable reason for an American born black to shrug his shoulders and accept that he should be treated worse in any context or situation, just for being black.

      • Thank you Power of Flight. As a black woman, I know what its like to get followed around a store. Not even Oprah is safe from that!

      • can’t you see that people aren’t being profiled just for being a certain race but what others of that race have done. That’s the point, accept it. Folks aren’t on this thing saying yes interrogate all black youth, stop all middle east folk at the airport, every white guy rents his basement apartment illegally, every dude wearing tight pants goes to H street, every person on a bike is reckless, every young white couple with a baby works for the government makes a fortune and made a mistake by moving into a transitional neighbor hood. Its simply you fit the description where the public has a predetermined view. Good or Bad. Like I said before the police may have gone about this wrong, but talk to them and see who they deal with on a daily basis. Then work to change the views of that persona. The OP stated that her son’s not only had the 7-11 run but others as well… I take she is a strong parent and its trying to keep her boys straight. Do that by setting an example.

        • “can’t you see that people aren’t being profiled just for being a certain race but what others of that race have done” ????? This is supposed to be acceptable? What did you think I thought was going on?

          ” That’s the point, accept it.” No…mainly because of all the stuff I just said…the Constitution stuff.

      • If you’ll permit a different point of view – because to this point you have not permitted any (which, in fact is part of the problem of “why can’t we all just have a conversation?”)

        Authorities are there to protect and defend. They cannot fulfull the capacity of their jobs if they are unable to target, based on patterns of behavior, potential criminal action. It’s just not possible. I’m not advocating for a police force that spends all its time stopping black youth for no reason, but there has got to be a multifaceted approach. Relationship-building and trust-building are just one approach, while conducting targeted (which is noted in my first comment, if you read it in its entirety) stops are another. These must be used in conjunction. You’re fooling yourself if you think that police will one day abandon this tactic, or if you think that abandoning this tactic will be the panacea to ill-will toward the establishment in working class neighborhoods.

  • Until you get stopped by police and asked why are you in this neighborhood, or you don’t belong here, or you need to back to where you live you will never understand how demeaning, humiliating, etc. it is.

    Stopped on the corner while everybody passes you, looking at you and assuming your some thug. Im sorry you will never understand the pressure and situations a black man like me has to go through.

    This is like saying every woman should like be catcalled out, I don’t see any women saying you just toughen up and take it.

    • houseintherear

      Yes. Well said.

    • No, I can and do understand the pressures you go through. I’ve been racially profiled in many places, and it’s been humiliating and demeaning every single time.

      The “you could never know” mentality does not help influence the opinion of others. If you’re on a public forum, like this one, try less one-sidedness and instead bring to the table your personal stories and anecdotes that demonstrate your ill-will instead of patronizing the rest of us.

    • its funny as a teenage kid with nothing to do in rural pa, we drove around in my car. A group of five or so boys. Many times we were pulled over for being young males. Truck searched for alcohol, drugs, registration checked etc etc. Was pretty normal. When I told my parents they said good, don’t get caught doing anything stupid you’ll never drive around again. I guess if I was black and not white, I could have said, that was BS I was pulled over because I was profiled. Those cops are abusing their power. There always seems to be a double standard here.

      • This, this, this, this, this.

        I was also a white boy growing up in a 95% white rural town, and when a couple of us were piled in a car, or were standing around a parking lot or on a corner in town, we were ROUTINELY confronted by the police. Pull-overs for an ID check and a look in the car because “you touched the yellow line back there, son,” or ID check for simple loitering (which DC should seriously get a law for) because “none of you boys live around here.” And you know what — that’s GOOD POLICING. Half the time we probably were 20 minutes from doing something stupid. None of us were bad kids, but teenagers caused most of the problems around, so teenagers got most of the attention. Fair–no. Good strategy–yes!

      • How is rural PA like a densely populated multi-ethnic, multi-racial urban center? Were there a lot black teenagers riding around in your rural hood and not getting stopped? Were the police targeting only the white guys? Really? You actually thought you were adding something with that comment?

        • we have all been profiled one way or the other. that was my point. being pulled over sitting on the curb with my truck being rummaged through for “beeping my horn” in the middle of town with everybody driving by was humiliating.

          plenty of other people drove around without being pulled over. My town just didn’t have a large black population, nothing I could do about that. We did have a large Indian population and they never seemed to have a problem driving around. You know why. They weren’t the ones driving around drinking, smoking weed, shooting paint balls, stealing Christmas decorations, yada yada yada. We fit the description of people that were causing the towns troubles. We didn’t flip out we were profiled because we where white, young teens, jock males. Do you get my point?

        • @Darin, Anonymous4:01 was adding something quite significant with that comment. Since you apparently missed it, allow me to explain it to you. Police, no matter where you are or what the demographics of that area may be, will routinely stop and talk to people in the core “troublemaking” demographic in that area. In rural PA, that is mostly caucasian teenage boys. So, while young girls and middle aged and elderly residents of any race may, from time to time, interact with the police, the bulk of the police attention is on young white males, as they are the ones who are most often breaking the law.
          .
          Similarly, the FBI Serial Killer Task Force spent the bulk of the time during the DC Sniper Attacks ten years ago looking for a 30-45 year old single white male, since most serial killers fit that demographic (although, in this particular case, they did not).
          .
          The point, @Darin, is that in this particular multi-ethnic, multi-racial urban center, despite making up about 12% of the population, young black males between the ages of 12-30 make up a heavily disproportionate number of the criminals in street violence, muggings, and thefts. Police, therefore, look to that population here the same as the police in rural areas look to young white males as troublemakers there.
          .
          I hope that clears it up for you.

  • I wonder if Mommy knows which crew these boys of hers run with??

  • Here’s a little food for thought, from today’s Miami Herald. Miami Gardens shop owner installed 15 cameras to protect him and his customers from the police. A clerk in the store has been frequently arrested for trespassing… as he was working! Saleh, whose store is tucked between a public park and working-class neighborhoods, contends that Miami Gardens police officers have repeatedly used racial slurs to refer to his customers and treat most of them like they are hardened criminals.

    “Police line them up and tell them to put their hands against the wall. I started asking myself ‘Is this normal?’ I just kept thinking police can’t do this,’’ Saleh said. http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/11/21/v-fullstory/3769823/in-miami-gardens-store-video-catches.html#storylink=cpy

  • As a 28 year old white woman, all I have experienced from the MPD is “petty thuggery.” Given that, I can only imagine how awful the MPD can be to citizens who are more susceptible to abuse.

    Based on my experience and the much worse one described here, it seems many MPD officers need remedial training on human decency, and a reminder that they are here to serve us — the citizens of DC.

  • Stopping and searching people who are not committing a crime is illegal and inexcusable. It’s a violation of the 4th amendment which we pay and put trust in officers to uphold. You simpletons who think it’s ok need to move back to the racist red state you’re from. And you call yourselves progressives. You’re yuppie hypocrites!

    • @Power_of_flight – In this thread and similar recent threads on PoP you don’t deny that the vast majority of violent crimes in DC are committed by young black men, plus 100% of the “knock-out game” crimes so far nationwide. You often sidestep the issue, saying things like “crimes are committed by individuals, not races”, but you never actually dispute the key statistic that’s in play. And how could you – it’s so notorious and well-documented. Yet you oppose any kind of profiling, no matter how mild, like asking for ID. So please tell us, what do you suggest? For all of us, black, white, asian, latino, whatever, who are law-abiding people who are contributing to society, what policing tactics can we support to keep ourselves and our families safe? And I am not asking about more money for education and parenting lessons or whatever, although all that has its place, and more. I am asking about policing.

      • I’m not sidestepping anything. What you’re describing isn’t an issue but a framing that’s only relevant for justifying discrimination. Ask yourself your own question about a hypothetical nation that’s 100% white to see why. How, oh how, can the police police without enforcing a social racial hierarchy when there are no races to even delineate? Would you think crime fighting would be impossible in such a society (iow, I’m not a crime fighting specialist, but I do know the entire concept was not predicated on first dividing a population into races)?

        As for “100% of the ‘knock-out game’ crimes so far nationwide” being committed by black men? Well, I can’t really fault you for being “wrong” about something that’s really just an internet racial dog-whistle turned flash-in-the-pan media trend piece rather than an actual thing, but: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/11/22/4-men-arrested-in-alleged-knockout-attack-in-brooklyn/

  • Did the cops provide you with a reason for the stop? Did they explain why they were detaining? Did they provide their business card? A person is walking down the street, they have no proof of any criminal activity. They stop a person and demand ID. This is illegal.

    Yet if you ask for the reason you are being stopped, or their badge numbers or business cards, you are aggravating the situation. If you attempt to record the encounter, you are aggravating the situation. There is no ability for the person being detained to ensure their rights.

    This is harassment plain and simple. You cannot report them effectively because you have no information to provide their superiors. Cathy Lanier may not approve of this behavior, but it is obvious all of her employees do.

    This blog frightens me, that so many people think people lose their rights because a cop tells them so.

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