With a state mental hospital located in his neighborhood, The Motley Monk thought "Oh, boy, some crazy person who thinks he (or she) is a bird! What hospital did he (or she) escape from?" After all, sometimes escapees or those on a leave show up at the local parish while The Motely Monk is offering Mass.
Now, read what the Chief of Police of Corinth, Texas, Debra Walthall, wrote in the Dallas Morning News about this encounter:
...My officers, a field training officer and his recruit, observed Ms. Bland walking in the roadway wearing earbuds and unaware that there was a pickup truck directly behind her that had to almost come to a complete stop to avoid hitting her.
The driver of the truck looked at the officers as they passed and held his hands in the air, which implied “aren’t you going to do something about this?” The officers turned around and drove behind Ms. Bland.
They activated their in-car video camera, which shows her again walking in the roadway impeding traffic. They activated their emergency lights—no siren was ever sounded—they exited their patrol vehicle and contacted Ms. Bland.
They immediately advised Ms. Bland about the pickup truck and the fact that it was safer for her to walk against traffic so she could see the cars and jump out of the way if necessary. The interaction between Ms. Bland and the officers was very cordial and brief.
Ms. Bland had been observed earlier by these same officers, but she was not in the street and impeding traffic, so she was not contacted.
Impeding traffic is a Class C misdemeanor, and it is our policy to ask for identification from people we encounter for this type violation. I am surprised by her comments as this was not a confrontational encounter but a display of professionalism and genuine concern for her safety...
Flashing lights and sirens from a police vehicle interrupted a routine Saturday morning walk in my golf-course community in Corinth.
I often walk about 3 miles near daybreak as part of my daily exercise. However, on Oct. 24, I delayed my walk until late morning as I waited for the rain to stop. I was dressed in a gray hooded “Boston” sweatshirt, black leggings, white socks, plus black-and-white Nike running shoes. Like most African-Americans, I am familiar with the phrase “driving while black,” but was I really being stopped for walking on the street in my own neighborhood?
Yes. In the words of Sal Ruibal, “Walking while black is a crime in many jurisdictions. May God have mercy on our nation.”
Knowing that the police officers are typically armed with guns and are a lot bigger than my 5 feet, 4 inches, I had no interest in my life’s story playing out like Trayvon Martin’s death. I stopped and asked the two officers if there was a problem; I don’t remember getting a decent answer before one of the officers asked me where I lived and for identification.
I remember saying something like, “Around the corner. This is my neighborhood, and I’m a taxpayer who pays a lot of taxes.” As for the I.D. question, how many Americans typically carry I.D. with them on their morning walk? Do you realize I bought the hoodie I was wearing after completing the Harvard University Institute for Management and Leadership in Education in 2014? Do you realize I have hosted gatherings for family, friends, faculty, staff and students in my home? Not once was a police officer called. To those officers, my education or property-owner status didn’t matter. One officer captured my address and date of birth.
I guess I was simply a brown face in an affluent neighborhood. I told the police I didn’t like to walk in the rain, and one of them told me, “My dog doesn’t like to walk in the rain.” Ouch!
I didn’t have my I.D., but I did have my iPhone, so I took a picture of the two police officers and the Texas license plate. One of the officers told me I should walk on the sidewalk or the other side of the street for safety’s sake.
Although I am not related to Sandra Bland, I thought about her, Freddie Gray and the dozens of others who have died while in police custody. For safety’s sake, I posted the photo of the officers on Facebook, and within hours, more than 100 Facebook friends spread the news from New York to California.
“You are now in the company of Henry Louis Gates and others with the same experience,” wrote one of my former students from Florida. “We must stop racial profiling.”
For anyone who doesn’t think racial profiling happens, I can assure you it does happen. For a sanity check, I stopped by the mayor’s house and asked him, “Do I look like a criminal?” Mayor Bill Heidemann said no and shook his head in disbelief. I appreciate the mayor being a good neighbor, but why should he need to verify that I am not a menace to society?
I refuse to let this incident ruin my life. As I was finishing my walk and listening to Urban Praise radio, I encountered an elderly white woman who asked if I would like some roses. She gave me a half-dozen roses. It was a random act of kindness and that’s why I call Janet Herbison of Gemini Peach and Rose Farm in Denton a good Samaritan. That evening I had dinner with neighbors.
The more often we talk and get to know people as humans, the stronger we will become as a nation. We are all part of the human race.
Chief Whitehall responded:
Please review the video and I’m sure you will agree the officers’ intent was simply to keep her safe. Ms. Bland never contacted the police department to voice her concerns regarding this encounter and has not returned my phone message left at the number provided by the mayor.
The citizens of Corinth as a whole are a highly educated population, and it is disappointing that one of our residents would attempt to make this a racial issue when clearly it is not.
Yes, being a White police officer today is tough enough. But, unfounded accusations--fueled by hyper-racial sensitivity that reads malicious intentions into what otherwise is fulfilling one's duties and responsibilities--only makes the job tougher. Where's the "social justice" in this?
Let the discussion begin...
To read the Dallas Morning News op-eds, click on the following links: