Chief, call it what it is: racial profiling

Apr 17, 2019 at 10:05 am
racial profiling

If you can’t imagine your 18-year-old son being pulled over, taken out of the car and cuffed, then searched by a drug dog and cited for a “wide turn”... you must be a white parent.

Of course, I’d be stunned if this happened to me. But that’s because Louisville’s police chief wouldn’t profile me, a white man, as a potential criminal.

Two frustrating takeaways from the body-cam video that shows 18-year-old Tae-Ahn Lea being pulled over in The West End:

1) People are still surprised that minorities get stopped and harassed for DWB (Driving While Black).

2) Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad brazenly acknowledged that our police employ a strategy of racial profiling to combat crime, even if he did not use those exact words.

Why would it surprise anyone that the friendly, compassionate city of Louisville racially targets its black population?

Conrad calls this strategy “pretextual” stops.

No, it’s racial profiling.

“We don’t have an aggressive traffic stop policy; there is no such thing,” Conrad told the Courier Journal after footage of the incident went viral, sparking public outrage and questions. “What we have is a people, places and narcotics strategy because that is the activity that ties many of these dangerous people to many of these dangerous locations, and a traffic stop is a small part of it.”

So, the “pretext” to the stops is a “people, places and narcotics strategy.” The people are the ones being racially profiled.

I also have serious questions about what Conrad deems “aggressive.” Perhaps it’s just me, living in my white-bubble world, but, removing me from my car on the side of the road seems aggressive. Putting me in handcuffs is aggressive. Searching through my car and pulling out wiring is aggressive. Having a drug dog walk all around my car is aggressive.

And it’s offensive that Conrad would lie about this policy/strategy.

If, as Conrad said, “there is no aggressive traffic stop policy,” why then did a police major tell Metro Councilman Bill Hollander something else? Is this a miscommunication or misdirection?

After the Rev. Dr. Kevin Cosby was pulled over for an “illegal turn” one night, six months ago, that police major told Hollander: “I’ve given clear instructions to my officers to aggressively patrol these neighborhoods and take as much enforcement action as possible...The stop of Rev. Cosby is an example of the exact action I’ve asked my officers to take.”

The police union said it was just an example of “proactive policing.”

Aggressive, pretextual, proactive policing.

I’m sure Conrad would feign offense that he is being accused of having profiled the “people, places.” He needs to drop the linguistic gymnastics and admit that the police are being instructed to aggressively, racially target black people in The West End.

Given that so many seemingly familiar videos have tragic endings, that Tae-Ahn Lea wasn’t killed doesn’t mean he wasn’t seriously hurt; nor his mother; nor the entire community. With this stop, as with all the others that we will never see, the police are exacerbating the chasm of mistrust between themselves and black and other minority communities.

One of the officers involved in the stop had the audacity to ask the young man, as he stood in handcuffs and a drug dog searched his car, “Why do you have this negative view towards the police?”

How could Tae-Ahn Lea not have a negative view of police after that experience? He was unjustifiably detained for a half hour and restrained, and now he’s got dog hair all over his car. He’s the victim of condescending, prejudging eyes from every car that passed and saw him on the side of the road.

Then, he had to go to court for the “wide turn” citation. (The charges were dropped.)

This stop and the inane questioning by that officer are why young black men view police negatively.

After the Cosby stop, this column called for an end to these frivolous traffic stops. There are too many instances of minor traffic violations endangering the person being stopped and the officer.

So, the Metro Council is meeting Tuesday evening with Conrad on this latest stop. They need to get him to explain exactly how his “people, places”strategy is not aggressive, racial profiling of black people in The West End. They need to do it before another young, black man is needlessly rousted or worse.