Thursday, March 26, 2009
Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Maybe Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle forgot this:
Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 2.131,
“A peace officer may not engage in racial profiling. Law enforcement-initiated action based on an individual's race, ethnicity, or national origin rather than on the individual's behavior or on information identifying the individual as having engaged in criminal activity.”
After the ordeal straight out of Hell that Houston Texans running back Ryan Moats went through the chief may have had a memory lapse. Moats who is African-American gets word that his wife’s mother is near death at Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano, Texas (a Dallas suburb). He and his wife rush to the hospital to be at her side in her final hours. But Dallas police officer Robert Powell (white) has other ideas. He corrals Moats, his wife and another female passenger in the medical center parking lot and in what can only be described as a surreal scene, pulls his gun on them, waves it around at Moats, his wife, and orders them to stand down. He then turns two tone deaf ears to Moats’s frantic efforts to explain that his mother-in-law is inside dying. Instead he mouths off at him. Moats won’t say it he’s got too much class for that, but no matter how profusely the Dallas chief apologizes, which to his credit he did, Moats and his wife were racially profiled.
The bone head stop of Moat’s did more than give Dallas police a black eye and cause city official to scramble for damage control. It also cast suspicion on just how serious police agencies are in wiping out racial profiling. They all swear to the heavens that their officers don’t profile. They have to; they’ve taken to much heat for it. In fact, the Texas statute that forbids racial profiling mandates that all Texas police departments file annual stats on motorist stops—by race. Dallas patted itself on the back in a city report in 2008 for seriously addressing all areas of concern about racial profiling and evaluating department procedures to insure that it doesn’t happen. But the Moats stop proves that what the department puts on paper and what happens in the streets means it still has a long way to go to achieve its stated goal of providing “public service that is effective and fair.”
Powell in his weak kneed half hearted defense, wailed that he thought he was following procedure, and just doing his job. In a twisted way he’s probably right, and that’s even more reason to doubt that Dallas and indeed other departments are really doing all they say they are to root out racial profiling.
Even by the jaded and dumb action of far too many cops who still think good law enforcement is pulling every twenty something young black male that they eyeball on the streets over, Moats’s ordeal was extreme.
Moats should slap the Dallas and its police department with Mt. Everest dollar size lawsuit. That won’t bring back his mother-in-law or erase the pain of knowing that the moments he spent being hectored by Powell were moments that he should have been at his mother-in-law’s bedside. But Dallas still must pay, and pay dearly for that. An apology for what he went through is simply not enough.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His weekly radio show, “The Hutchinson Report” can be heard weekly in Los Angeles on KTYM Radio 1460 AM and nationally on blogtalkradio.com