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Opinion

Opinion

Racial profiling stories speak loudly

September 29, 2010

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It’s a funny thing about words: sometimes, they convey meaning but not necessarily understanding.

Take the term “racial profiling.” Author Joseph Collum of Plantation, Fla., says the Oxford English Dictionary credits him with coining it in 1989 when he was an investigative TV reporter in New Jersey. We all get its meaning: law-enforcement personnel targeting citizens by their skin color.

But to truly “understand” what racial profiling is, it helps to hear a story like that of Chris Stubbs. She was a 27-year-old black woman, driving home to North Carolina from New York where she had gone to pick up $10,000 from a friend’s brother; the brother, who owned a car dealership, had agreed to stake Stubbs’ dream of opening a restaurant.

Stubbs was pulled over by a New Jersey state trooper who claimed her front wheel was wobbling. She told him she had a spare. He asked to search her vehicle. The trooper did his search and found the brown paper bag full of cash.

“You know you’re going to jail for this,” he told her.

“For what?” she asked.

“For having all this money,” he said.

Stubbs’ car was driven to a state police barracks. The door panels were removed, the carpet was lifted, every crevice was searched. Stubbs was frisked, fingerprinted, photographed, interrogated, locked up.

And then, released. They’d found no drugs, charged her with no crime. They had not so much as written her a ticket. But troopers still kept the cash. If Stubbs wanted it back, they told her, she’d have to hire a lawyer and prove it wasn’t drug money.

If that story infuriates you, well, there’s more where that came from. Indeed, one reads Collum’s new book, “The Black Dragon: Racial Profiling Exposed” in a state of perpetual anger, amazement and fascination. The book (yours truly provided a blurb that appears on the back cover) reads like a particularly addictive novel and you have to keep reminding yourself that what you’re reading actually happened, that it is not the invention of some writer’s imagination, that New Jersey troopers were really this out of control, this unlawful, this willing to shred the U.S. Constitution.

“It was right there for everybody to see on the side of the highway,” says Collum. “That’s how we got on to it. I was the reporter for the investigative unit and one of our assignment people used to come in everyday and say, ‘Hey, I saw it again. Troopers had a car over on the side, all of the luggage out on the road, people sittin’ on the guardrail. And guess what? They were black.’”

Finally, Collum pulled arrest records for a single small town — Leonia. What he found stunned him. “Because, I think, 90 percent of the arrests the previous year by the state police on the Turnpike through Leonia were black or Hispanic. I said, ‘Could this be true all up and down the Turnpike?”

It was.

Jersey troopers were not interested in catching speeders or drunken drivers. They were out to make drug busts. In the War on Drugs, that was the key to career advancement and Trooper of the Year awards. And the way you made those busts, the veteran cops taught the young ones, was to “think dark,” i.e, find reasons to stop drivers with brown skin.

Eventually, that advice would embarrass New Jersey before the nation. Collum’s TV news report led to a series of humiliating revelations, hearings and a Justice Department consent decree. “The Black Dragon” is a riveting account of that ordeal. It is also yet another piece of evidence damning the War on Drugs as a war on people of color and their civil liberties.

We say we are a nation of liberty and justice for all. But, again, it’s a funny thing about words — even those words. Yes, we all get the meaning. But Collum’s book suggests some of us are still a little fuzzy on the understanding.

— Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com. lpitts@miamiherald.com

Comments

grammaddy 4 years, 2 months ago

Thanks for the head's up Mr. Pitts.I was just thinking about a new book to read and this sounds like "the one". I'll be checking Border's and the library today.

bradh 4 years, 2 months ago

The only problem I have with the arresting officer is why they asked to search the car in the first place if the reason they pulled the car over was a loose wheel. However, when they found a paper bag with $10,000 in it I definitely think they should have investigated. Odds are pretty good some kind of criminal activity was involved. I would have thought a phone call to the car dealership would have resolved it without booking the lady. I've seen Pitts one sided/one color stories before and I would like to have heard the police side of the story as well since he tends to leave things out that don't bolster the story he's trying to tell.

orbiter 4 years, 2 months ago

Or you could read about the case if you are so interested. It's not as though this just happened. The facts are all quite clear. It was a very noteworthy case. Look it up. Corrupt officers stole money from a law abiding citizen and fought tooth and nail to keep it, and to protect the corrupt officers. Being so sensitive to racial injustice it seems like you would have already heard about it, but because it wasn't whites being wronged your injustice detector must have not gone off. But you seem to have all the facts you need already so just sit there and call Mr. Pitts a bigoted propagandist. It's interesting how you claim Mr. Pitts withholds the "white side" of issues repeatedly, yet on this story you have no idea about the case (a very famous case) but still assume he is. Do you usually have all the facts to know he only telling the "black side" or do you just assume this? Do you ever wonder why you think this?

bradh 4 years, 2 months ago

Because I read Mr. Pitts when he worked for the Star. His stories and Mr. Diugud's were all about racism. Like the time KC put up bollards along the sidewalk to keep bikes off, it was a racist attack because he ran into one. It wasn't racist, they put up they bollards to keep all bikes off, not just the one he was riding. He sees racism in everything. There is definitely racism in America (black and white), but it isn't everywhere and in everything.

I'm sorry I'm not familiar with a case that probably happened 25 years ago in New Jersey. Google isn't either. Only Pitts' story comes up on the first page of a quick search.

notajayhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

Funny, orbit - seems Google has never heard of your "very noteworthy case".

fester0420 4 years, 2 months ago

my friend owns a club and they always carry that kind of money it happens more often then you think. well take that much to kick it for a weekend

cowboy 4 years, 2 months ago

This speaks more to the loose , rarely enforced requirements for searching a vehicle or person. Seems the law has carte blanche to enter your vehicle and pull you out anymore. Watch "COPS " and the folks who aren't aware of their rights pretty much invite the search. The poor , mechanically challenged folks are going to be selected more often than not due to the obvious tail light out type violations. The confiscation of cash is another whole issue. This practice should be repealed . It's punishment without due process plain and simple.

Be polite and don't give away your rights. Get a kick out of the typical "where you headed" question that is asked often , politely officer it's none of your business where i'm headed.

jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

Actually, I think it's pretty likely they wouldn't have asked to search your vehicle, since you're white and they were targeting black folks.

fester0420 4 years, 2 months ago

The bottom line is its not illegal to have money.

fester0420 4 years, 2 months ago

the problem was that the search was done without any reason. a wobbly tire is not a reason. the tire probably was not even wobbly the cop just wanted to pull here over. this happens all the time. i was pulled over and the cop said it was for a flickering taillight which was totally bogus. of course i was let go but i never should have been stopped in the first place. if you go down I-70 at night you will probably get pulled over in Wamego county they pull people over for no reason all the time looking for drugs with no reason at all

orbiter 4 years, 2 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

fester0420 4 years, 2 months ago

never saw where he asked for bigger government in fact it seems the opposite

thusspokezarathustra 4 years, 2 months ago

Except of course Ronald (the government is evil) Reagan is responsible for these laws.

"The Department of Justice established the National Assets Seizure and Forfeiture Fund in 1985 and realized $27 million from drug-related forfeitures that year"

So it was actually advocates for limited government that brought this about.

kansanbygrace 4 years, 2 months ago

Exactly...Reagan multiplied government, increased the national debt by over 180%. George W Bush increased the size of government tremendously and blew the gov. finances from a reasonable surplus to an enormous deficit in the process of generating his Article 2 presidency.

itwasthedukes 4 years, 2 months ago

Someday police will be required to pull over a proportionate number of the racial mix in the area. Do you think this is an efficient way to enforce the law? Since we are on the subject is it racial profiling to look for Muslims? Last I checked "Muslim" is not a race.

Joyful_noise 4 years, 2 months ago

“Because, I think, 90 percent of the arrests the previous year by the state police on the Turnpike through Leonia were black or Hispanic."

I would be curious to know how many of these arrests resulted in convictions.

notajayhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

I believe the research shows that while certain ethnic groups may be stopped and searched disproportionally, the outcome of those searches (the likelihood of actually finding something illegal) is about the same across all racial groups.

geekin_topekan 4 years, 2 months ago

The so called War on Drugs is nothing more than a money grab.

"Come get your share of $50B..." was the cry in some correctional journal that I read a while back.

Powder coke=rich elites Crack=poor but not necessarily minority.

Powder sentencing guidelines are 1/10th that of crack. Black drug offenders likely to get sent to prison for first offense 6:1

A scared citizen is a generous citizen. COrporate prisons want crack users breaking into your home. They want crack users robbing and raping.

Crack offenders=Mo'money,Mo'money,Mo'money!!

notajayhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

Leonia isn't a town. It's a borough. It comprises a whopping 1.6 square miles and has a population of less than 9,000. It couldn't possibly be a statistical anomaly that 90% (if that number is accurate) of the 5 or 6 people arrested along that stretch were black.

With the amount of traveling I do, particularly before I gave up the long commute, I saw scenes such as Mr. Pitts cites along the sides of the highway all the time. Mr. Pitts probably didn't see those, however - some of the occupants of the vehicles were white.

Practicality 4 years, 2 months ago

I saw one just yesterday where 3 males and one female were sitting on a guard rail while their car was being searched by K-9 and Highway Patrol officers on i-70 just west of Topeka. They were all white and under the age of 30 (guessing of course).

orbiter 4 years, 2 months ago

Statistics are hell for you guys aren't they? You see them and just can't believe them when your worldview is refuted. Poor guys! You're so cute in your denial of reality. Just live in your Kansas bubble and believe in whatever you want.

notajayhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

"Statistics are hell for you guys aren't they?"

What statistics are you referring to?

“Because, I think, 90 percent of the arrests the previous year by the state police on the Turnpike through Leonia were black or Hispanic. I said, ‘Could this be true all up and down the Turnpike?”

Is THAT what you were referring to as a "statistic", orbit?

"You see them and just can't believe them when your worldview is refuted."

Kettle, Mr. Kettle? Phone call from a Mr. Pot.

"Just live in your Kansas bubble and believe in whatever you want. "

I haven't lived in this 'Kansas bubble' all that long, relatively. Before that I lived in the greater NYC metro, and have probably traveled that stretch of road at least 200 times. And your own expertise on the validity of Mr. Pitt's (who lives in Maryland) and Mr. Collum's (who lives 1000 miles away in Florida) "statistics" comes from what, again?

fester0420 4 years, 2 months ago

no one said they dont pull whites over. its just disproportionate

Practicality 4 years, 2 months ago

Although this story is somewhat disturbing, why would someone drive from North Carolina to NYC to pick up ten grand in cash? The money itself is not a crime, and I realize she shouldn't have been arrested, but why wouldn't the brother just send the money by a check in the mail or by some other means. My guess, the money was likely ill goten, which could be why the police didn't turn it over. There appears to be more to this story. . . . . .

mbulicz 4 years, 2 months ago

"That's the problem with those like Pitts; they don't want to hear/know the rest of the story."

Pot, meet kettle.

orbiter 4 years, 2 months ago

Why make this comment? Read about the case! Your racism just can't be denied can it? Your assumptions speak volumes. Seriously, read about the case. Read about what the State Police did in this case. State Police stole money from a law abiding citizen and fought to keep it (what they hadn't already spent). And they fought to protect the corruption within their agency. Read! Please. But I guess you find it only "somewhat disturbing" that 10K of legitimately earned money was stolen from an innocent person. You've got your "guess" I guess, so you'll just stick with it. Ignorance must be so fun for you when you have such great powers of guessing.

George Lippencott 4 years, 2 months ago

You know there actually are some limits on how much currency you can run around with. A certified check might have been a better answer.

Practicality 4 years, 2 months ago

Lord help me. What on earth was so racist about what I stated? And, before you go off on another "everyone is a racist" tangent, I only read the article above, so that was what I was stating on.

So, if you were a cop, where illegal activity is never admited to, and you came across $10K in cash in someone's car, and the story they told you was, "I drove up to NYC to pick it up from my brother's friend so I can start a restaurant", that wouldn't arouse suspicion? I am not saying the woman broke any laws, like I said earlier, just that it doesn't seem to make much sense. But I believe you already know that and just want to yell "racist" at people, because questioning the validity of a suspicious story must make one so in your mind.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 2 months ago

I guess US currency isn't legal tender if the color is wrong-- skin color, that is.

notajayhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

Right, boohoozo. 'Cause you, of course, have some knowledge that an identical stop was made by the same police officer in the same place with an identical amount of money in identical circumstances where the driver was allowed to keep the money because he was white.

Practicality 4 years, 2 months ago

The only color I was referring to was the color of green. A large amount and a sketchy story should arouse suspicion. Suspicion doesn't imply guilt, but it should be looked into if one is a Law Enforcement Officer.

Haiku_Cuckoo 4 years, 2 months ago

Anyone who carries that much money is asking for it to be taken. Several years ago a group of bikers on their way to Bike Week in Daytona got pulled over. One of them had intentions of buying another motorcycle there so he brought $10k in cash. The cops confiscated it. The biker was white, not that it makes any difference, and he never got his money back. Civil forfeiture is all too common these days. It sucks and it's wrong, but people need to anticipate that it is a possibility and use common sense. Get a cashiers check or have the bank wire your money instead.

Haiku_Cuckoo 4 years, 2 months ago

Yep. Until things are made better, use common sense.

think_about_it 4 years, 2 months ago

I too found the story as told infuriating. However given the author of the column I know without a doubt that there is much more to it that wasn't told because it didn't advance Pitts' propaganda.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 2 months ago

Well that didn't take much thought-- just a little knee-jerking.

think_about_it 4 years, 2 months ago

Yes bozo. I have been reading Pitts' racist slop for years. Knee-jerking is all that's required when it comes to anything he writes.

notajayhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

Did you mean Pitt's column, or your own comment, boohoozo?

George Lippencott 4 years, 2 months ago

The problem is real. Certainly race plays here. But... One has to ask whether our losing war on drugs has not spawned an attitude in some public safety elements that it is fair game to stop just about anyone in the search for contraband. I bet Hispanics, middle easterners, certain Caucasian ethnic groups and maybe more get to experience this kind of treatment out of proportion to the actual presence of illegal material. .

formerfarmer 4 years, 2 months ago

The easiest way for the above incident to have not happened is, when the officer asks if he can search, just say "no, I would prefer you get a search warrant." And don't let the officer try to get you to change your mind, that is coercion.

jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

I wonder what would have happened if she had refused to let them search her car?

Is that legal, to not allow the search without some sort of warrant?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 2 months ago

Here's what the ACLU has to say about how to react in any interactions with the police or other law enforcement.

http://www.aclu.org/drug-law-reform-immigrants-rights-racial-justice/know-your-rights-what-do-if-you#3

To answer your question, you can refuse the officer's request to search. If they believe they see evidence of a crime (they smell pot smoke, see an open beer can, etc.) they can search without your consent.

fester0420 4 years, 2 months ago

yah watch fox news if you believe in fairy tails

jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

It doesn't beg the question at all - the main question is whether the officers had the right to stop her and search her car.

And, whether they are much more likely to do so if the driver is black.

thusspokezarathustra 4 years, 2 months ago

Actually Tom if you are carrying large amounts of cash in the United States the police can seize it & force you to prove it was not gained illegally.

For example: "Testifying before the Judiciary Committee, Willie Jones of Nashville, TN, gave an example of this abuse. Engaged in the landscaping business, Mr. Jones planned to buy a shrubbery in Houston, TX. Nurseries prefer cash from out-of-town buyers, so Mr. Jones planned to go there with $9,000 in cash. Officers detained him at the airport: suspicious of the large amount of cash, they accused him of being involved in drug-related activities. They eventually let him go, but they kept the money, and refused to even give him a receipt for it. Because he did not have 10% of the money seized to put up as a bond, he could not afford to challenge the seizure in the usual way." But you will probably not see this on Fox News they are too busy taking down their webpage proclaiming the President loves gangsta rap.

jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

What ever happened to nobody being deprived of life, liberty or property without due process?

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 4 years, 2 months ago

We don't need to go to North Carolina to find looney cops, just read this piece from The Star about a bunch of rogue DEA agents who were driving illegally and then beat the tar out of a citizen who called them on it. The only good cop in the story was run out of his job.

http://www.kansascity.com/2010/09/25/2250584/exposing-agent-costs-kck-detective.html

It's time to tighten up the controls on these thugs. No more no knock raids, no more throwing people to the ground for no reason, trashing their houses, killing their pets and terrorizing their children.

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 4 years, 2 months ago

@Tom If you're caught traveling with what the cops feel is too much cash your money can be impounded and you have to prove you're not guilty to get it back. There are multitudes of stories like this that have occurred to folks who sold a house, were in the process of moving, etc and they all weren't black.

The war on drugs has unleashed a litany of horribly brutal procedures and personnel on the citizens of this country and the worst part is that when they make mistakes they are rarely held accountable.

The thugs described in the story I linked to are still working for DEA. If you're really a conservative, pull your head up and get government back in control, this isn't some socialist paradise where the cops are allowed to do anything they want - at least that's the BS we've been told.

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 4 years, 2 months ago

@Tom If you're caught traveling with what the cops feel is too much cash your money can be impounded and you have to prove you're not guilty to get it back. There are multitudes of stories like this that have occurred to folks who sold a house, were in the process of moving, etc and they all weren't black.

The war on drugs has unleashed a litany of horribly brutal procedures and personnel on the citizens of this country and the worst part is that when they make mistakes they are rarely held accountable.

The thugs described in the story I linked to are still working for DEA. If you're really a conservative, pull your head up and get government back in control, this isn't some socialist paradise where the cops are allowed to do anything they want - at least that's the BS we've been told.

notajayhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

Any thought as to why this car dealer friend of her brother gave her $10,000 in cash instead of a check in the first place?

jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

They didn't "base" the search on cash, they found it during the search.

Not sure what the foundation for the search was.

pace 4 years, 2 months ago

you are such a jerk. When my Dad wanted to buy equipment or land from a person, he would pull the cash out, because every person with any sense know when you are dickering you wave cash, not a check or a iou. Staid 9 to 5'ers, like every thing done they way they would do it. If I have cash, it is mine not some crooked cops. I don't like the idea that you present that some cop could take my money because I don't carry a credit card like you.

Practicality 4 years, 2 months ago

She was not dickering, she claimed to drive up to NY from NC to collect the money. Now, either the person didn't know she was driving up and she just showed up (unlikely), or he deliberaltely felt the need to give her cash. Why would someone do that?

If she was going to an auction then your argument would make sense. I do not know enought to determine if she broke any laws, but to claim that it doesn't sound suspicious is ludicrous.

Practicality 4 years, 2 months ago

And the police when they have reasonable suspicion. Like in this case.

jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

It may be odd, but so what?

The question is whether the police had any probable cause for the search.

jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

Yes.

I'm curious as to what probable cause they might have had/not had if she had refused to allow them.

pace 4 years, 2 months ago

that it sounds suspicious is enough for her to be robbed is ludicrous. That is what you are promoting, robbing anyone who seems different than you. What a jerk. I don't find it suspicious, it is not my business. What is my business is you promoting that people should be robbed because you find someone having cash suspicious.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 2 months ago

I just did a word search on this entire article, and not once in it, nor in the comments, is a very common driving infraction listed that every Black person is very well aware of:

DWB

yankeevet 4 years, 2 months ago

Thats all Pitts talks about is racial crap; ........

yankeevet 4 years, 2 months ago

Not uncomfortable; just get tired of hearing the same ole crap; now u got a problem with that?

thusspokezarathustra 4 years, 2 months ago

Nothing say's "I'm tired" like logging on, coming here and leaving a comment. I would say you are agitated not tired.

yankeevet 4 years, 2 months ago

yes; that is a good word...........agitated.........

uncleandyt 4 years, 2 months ago

In the Bible that this country was founded on, it clearly is written at least 40 times that the people should be presumed guilty until they can pay someone to prove their innocence. Everyone knows that it is against the law to carry cash. God created credit cards to keep good Americans out of our overpopulated private prisons. Don't forget to vote on November 5th.

Mike Ford 4 years, 2 months ago

I've been racially profiled in Kansas and Oklahoma five times in the last couple of years. They always love it when they're dealing with a smart person..not!!! I was pulled over in Doniphan County, KS three times in an hour and never arrested..the last stop involved a k-9 unit. I was leaving the Iowa Indian Reservation above White Cloud when it started that night. Profiling is profiling... dumblicans cany deny all day and blame the victims.... I've experienced racism far beyond any of the bs shewmaniac throws out to deflect his comments... make your law and order fascists behave and respect citizen's rights guaranteed by the US Constitution...this mainly happens to me in rural areas..not in DG County.

notajayhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

"I was leaving the Iowa Indian Reservation above White Cloud when it started that night."

If they were pulling people over leaving an Indian reservation just because they're Native-Americans, seems like they would have been having a busy night.

Um - since you don't seem to understand the concept, in such a location, it would have been more likely to be racial profiling if they were pulling over NON-Native-Americans.

notajayhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

You know what strikes me as odd? This heart-rending little story would have had much more impact had there been even a single example of a similar event with a white driver, where the driver was sent on their merry way with their cash in hand. You'd think a Pulitzer Prize winning 'journalist' might have recognized how that would have bolstered the point he was attempting to make. How odd he didn't include such an example.

If you take a few minutes to browse around the web, it's full of people that talk about the phenomena of questionable cash seizures. I'm not saying it's right, or acceptable, or Constitutional. I'm saying it's common, and has nothing to do with race, except for Mr. Pitt's usual selection of a black person being the victim of an event that happens all around the country on a fairly frequent basis. But then, if Ms. Stubbs hadn't been black, he wouldn't have had his usual race-baiting story.

jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

It's more likely that they simply wouldn't have asked to search the car if she were white.

Mike Ford 4 years, 2 months ago

notajayhawk, the cops were white, I'm Indian, get it now denier?

notajayhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

"the cops were white, I'm Indian"

Yeah, got that part, thanks. As I alluded to in my previous post, a point that seems to have sailed cleanly over your head, the odds were pretty good that anyone they pull over leaving an Indian reservation is going to be Native-American, isn't it? Is it your contention that you shouldn't have been pulled over, solely because you're Indian? That only Native-American police officers are allowed to pull you over on a public road? Thanks for the explanation, now I know that the next time I get a ticket from an officer that's a different race I don't have to pay it, since it was so obviously racial profiling.

I don't suppose, tuschie, it's ever occurred to you that all the things that have happened in your life can't be blamed on being picked on because of your race? That just maybe your own bigotry and the monumental chip on your shoulder just might have contributed in some small way?

notajayhawk 4 years, 2 months ago

Pray tell which one, eddie? Because if it offended you, I must be on the right track.

independant1 4 years, 2 months ago

Have been pulled over many times on reservations in AZ/NM and Indian Nation turnpike in Okla. Can't figure out which profile they were using Indian/Irish/German/Black/Okie. Often near casinos.

independant1 4 years, 2 months ago

Time of night is a factor. Knew a NJ State Trooper while living in NJ, our kids were on same township athletic teams, that guy told some pretty chilling tales about duty on the Parkway and Turnpike. The troopers in disfavor get the Newark/Elizabeth/Camden duty, others get the 78/80 Interstates, now there's a drug corridor! Our Township made a ton of money with the confiscatory drug laws, cash and autos, local cops on night shift brought home the bacon from stops on the Interstate.

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