Sunday, May 23, 2010

Issues of Race and Police Misconduct are Real; Carmel City (Traffic) Court & Minorities

Over at another blog, Abdul criticizes the African-American community for complaining about police brutality and uses a satirical piece by Chris Rock to make a point that if a police officer is beating up an African-American suspect, well the suspect most certainly deserved it. While Rock was being sarcastic in the very funny clip, many posters to the piece apparently thought Rock was being serious and praised Rock's "lesson" that if blacks are getting beaten by cops it is because they're misbehaving. You would have thought one of Rock's suggestion of African-American drivers traveling with white passengers in order to avoid a whipping by the police would be enough to tip viewers off on the fact that Rock was joking. But alas that is not the case.
I love how posters on that blog apparently believe that if someone is suspected of a crime, it's okay for police officers to beat the crap out of them. So much for those of us who believe in due process of law.
Fortunately, most police officers act professionally and responsibly. There are numerous exceptions out there, however. For example, our law firm has video in which an officer from a small local police department was talking to a neighborhood witness of a shooting, when another officer ran up and tazed the African-American man knocking him to the ground. The other officers watched in horror while their colleague began kicking the man as he laid helpless on the ground.
Police misconduct is not confined to mistreatment of blacks Last year an IMPD officer pulled over my niece who was returning from an African-American neighborhood where she had been visiting a friend. The officer didn't cite any reason for stopping my niece but demanded to know what she was doing in the neighborhood. He told her get out of the car and handcuffed her. He then proceeded to search her car. Not finding anything, he let her go. Apparently driving while white in a black neighborhood is enough of a reason for at least one IMPD officer to think he has grounds to make a stop and search a person's car.
A colleague of mine at my law firm recently returned from Carmel City Court. (That court hears mostly traffic infractions and traffic-related misdemeanors.) He said that while he was waiting to go through the metal detector he noticed that every person in line to get into the courtroom was a minority. He later stuck his head into the courtroom and could only find a couple white defendants in the room.
That's consistent with my experience as an attorney with the Carmel City Court and Carmel Police Department. As an attorney, I've talked to numerous minorities who have been pulled over in Carmel and being asked why they are driving in the city. Throw in a Marion County license plate and an older model car, the odds of an African-American or Latino driver getting pulled over in Carmel rises dramatically. While Martinsville gets the rap of being a racially intolerant community, I have never heard the same sort of complaints from minorities about Martinsville that I hear about Carmel. While I doubt Carmel police officers are deliberately racist, there is an attitude in Carmel that "outsiders" are responsible for crime in the community and the easiest way for officers to identify those "outsiders" is the color of a person's skin.
Issues of race and police misconduct are real. While we should give law enforcement officers the benefit of the doubt given the very difficult job they have, that doesn't mean suspending common sense or giving officers a green light to beat up those suspected of a crime.


Gary R. Welsh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gary R. Welsh said...

Paul, I noticed one of the suspended officers is Officer Shaughnessy. He's the guy who was getting free memberships at NIFS at the same time he was getting paid to do security work for the club. His work entailed cruising the shower area naked and trying to lure gay men into sexual acts. He failed miserably at that task but busted innocent people nonetheless for looking at him without speaking. The judge threw out the cases where defendants bothered to hire a defense attorney right after Shaughnessy testified about why he charged the defendants. He nearly destroyed a good doctor's career pulling double duty on NIFS payroll.

I don't know all of the facts in this case. If this individual was interfering with an arrest, he should have been dealt with appropriately. Does that mean giving him a broken nose, chipped teeth and a bad black eye? Probably not. I suspect Straub will be tougher on these cops for this sort of thing than his predecessor.

Unknown said...

I think the Carmel Police Dept are understandably vigilant when it comes to cars bearing Marion County license plates.

Hamilton County is having to deal with the spill over of criminals from Marion County. According to the statistics offered by the candidates for Hamilton County Sheriff, half of the offenders at the Hamilton County Jail have Marion County/Indianapolis addresses.

Unfortunately, Indianapolis' crime problem has been left to Hamilton County authorities to address. The best way to do this is by keeping a close eye on those from Marion County, white, black, hispanic, asian . . .

Chris Worden said...

There is a similar phenomenon that occurs in Hendricks County. The number of Latinos in a particular city's traffic court is staggeringly disproportionate, which once prompted a judge to state to one officer, "I hope you're not engaging in racial profiling." I actually had some OFFICERS tell me the practice is rampant.

But, no, there's no racism. We're all just playing the race card.

Chris Worden said...

Also, Bob...the idea that Hamilton County authorities are treating ALL 49 license plates equally made me chuckle. I'm sure they stop all the white business people in suits with 49 plates. Ha ha ha! Oh, that's so funny.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I hope people don't think my post meant I reflexively believe the teenager's story. In fact, I'm suspicious of it. My comment was more general in nature. I didn't know the background of that cop.

Bob, I'm sorry but police officers have to have cause to pull someone over. They can't just pull people over people because they're from a different county driving in Carmel. There is an attitude among Carmel officials though that "outsiders" are causing all their problems - like they don't have problems of their own. (I'm reminded of southern politicians who used to talk about how their "negroes" (not the word they used) are okay until "outside agitators" from up north come down to the state.) People probably don't remember but Brainard actually suggested closing the Monon at the Carmel city line so people couldn't travel from Indy to Carmel.

Gary R. Welsh said...

No, I didn't think that, Paul. Abdul's blog post is just more of what we expect from a guy who is being paid to peddle BS for the Ballard administration. I'm just wondering if he ever plans to disclose his "consulting fees."

Marycatherine Barton said...

Charles Silberman's findings in, CRISIS IN BLACK AND WHITE, are just as true today as they were when he authoried this non-fiction book thirty years ago, as we here in Indiana are well aware.

Cato said...

"Fortunately, most police officers act professionally and responsibly.

Glory to the Lord in the highest.


That's what you've posted, a prayer. It isn't true, and I hate how anyone who criticizes the police must prepend that prayer to their criticism, lest risk retribution.