One person's thoughts may change the world
Now this police encounter is two fold. One was a non gun pulling event, and the second eventually lead up to a gun pulling event by the police. They both have the same theme, being a black male in a car, and that’s it, nothing else. The first is a short encounter with the State police of Pennsylvania on the Pennsylvania turnpike during the early 90’s. A friend (Everett) and I would frequent Washington DC a couple of times a year, stay with his sister out in Gaithersburg, check out the historic sites and the museums during the day, and go clubbing at night. We also had a thing of going to see DC’s red light district, and watch in amazement, I had never seen so many prostitutes per square inch before in all of my life. And these were some top end looking woman, which begged the question beyond the obvious, what were they doing out there? Anyway, we were heading back to Detroit and my buddy insisted on driving back, saying, “I am going to get us back faster going the speed limit only, not all that speed demon driving you like to do”. He was right, I liked driving fast, and liked it even more that we didn’t get caught, especially on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which was still 55 miles per hour, and “proud of it”, as the state sign use to say.
It was night, we were driving, listening to music, and talking when we passed by a Pennsylvania patrol car who had someone pulled over. As we passed, I distinctly remember making eye contact with the officer, who was female, and I said to my friend, Everett, “She’s going to pull us over”.
“Awww man, why did you say that? Now you cursed us, she is going to pull us over”, he said with a chuckle. Actually he was partially right. He and I had been pulled over, or stopped by police on several occasions, and each time I would say, “They are going to stop us”. It would be something about eye contact with them, or something, but, they were going to stop us.
So, on a clear night, no one else on the road, we were driving along at 55 miles per hour. The reason why I know is because he put the cruise control on and set it, he was out to prove by going the speed limit, he could get us back just as fast as I could. There was no one in front or behind us, just us on the road, until… some headlights appeared behind us at a distance. The headlights were small at first, and grew larger quickly as we kept driving. Then finally, the flashers came on. Everett then said, “How did you know?”.
“Dude, I saw the way she looked at us as we drove by”, I said. Now, two black guys driving late night on the turnpike, is there anything suspicious about that? Who knows. We were driving in a Maxima, so I’m not sure that had anything to do with it, but, other than that, this was the classic case of “Driving while black”. We pulled over. Everett turned on the interior light in the car. She had her flashlight, shined it in his face. The first question out of her mouth was:
“Good evening sir, whose car is this?”, she said.
We’ve heard all the questions before, but not this one. That was a new one for both of us. Everett answered, perplexed, then she proceeded to write the serial number of the car down. First time I had seen that as well. He gave her his license, insurance and registration, to which she then asked the next series of questions: “You were exceeding the speed limit”, to which I told her no, he had cruise control. Then she said, “well, we saw your car wavering from one line to the other”, she said next. We both vigorously said no to, I even pointed out I was navigating and making sure he was wide awake. She then took his information back to the car, checked it out, then let us go. Unusual questions, but no gun.
Now the gun story. Same car, same people, plus one, whom we just dropped off at his house after a workout. We were sitting in the car, on a residential street in Detroit when, floodlights illuminated his back window. At first, no flashers, just flood lights. We both sat there waiting for them to get out of their car. They turned on their flashers then walked out of their car.
Two Detroit police officers, and this time, they were black. Everett rolled down the window, and the officer asked, “Whose car is this?” This time, the question didn’t fluster Everett, but I noticed the officer who was on my side of the car had his hand on his weapon. I looked at his hand, then I looked at him. We both stared at each other, not blinking once.
Everett answered him, and, he gave him his information, then the next question started a series of events. “Do you mind if we search your car?” he said to Everett. I then said to Everett so that the policeman could hear it, “No man, don’t let him search your car, you gave him the info, that’s all he needs to see”. The officer then bent down and said to me, “Sir I wasn’t talking to you”, and then I responded, “Officer, I wasn’t talking to you either, I was talking to my friend”. His partner then knocked on my window, instructing me to roll it down. “He said he wasn’t talking to you”, to which I responded, “Officer, I said I wasn’t talking to him either”.
Everett then says, “Hey man it’s OK we don’t have anything to hide”. Then I said the following so both of them could hear it, “We don’t know if they are good cops or bad cops, DO NOT let them search your car”.
Well, that was it. They both pulled their weapons, telling me to get out, put my hands on the car, and then told me to get my identification out. I refused, telling them all the more reason to shoot me so if you want my wallet, get it yourself.
In the meantime, they searched his car, our gym bags, and through all of our gym clothing in the street. Right before they left, and said to the officer, “Thank b-r-o-t-h-a”….
The issue was two officers, one white the others black, immediately thought two young black males were up to something when we weren’t. Black police had now crossed the line as well. And that’s what it’s like to be black at times, assumed guilty before innocent, and harassed. Even by our own people…. Do you wonder what the term, “Angry black man” really means?
I still had not lost respect for the police…But, by this time, I lost all my trust in them.
Thank God for Officer Duncan….