Saturday, July 19, 2008

Stopped While Driving White In A Black Neighborhood

Last February, I attended a Mayor's Night Out at the Jubilee Center on the City's near northside. Public Safety Director Scott Newman told the gathered neighborhood residents to expect stepped up enforcement as a means of getting guns out of the hands of felons. Newman told the gathering that routine traffic stops are an effective and legal means of accomplishing this objective. Let's put this policy to the test.

I spoke tonight to a prominent neighborhood leader and local business owner who was subjected to one of these "routine traffic stops." Shortly after this fine gentleman, who happens to be Caucasian, left a black friend's home in the area of West 29th Street, he was tailed by an IMPD officer. After traveling about five blocks, the officer turned on his lights and pulled him over. The officer approached him and demanded to know why he was "buying crack in a black neighborhood." His efforts to explain to the officer that he had simply been visiting a friend in the neighborhood weren't succeeding. "Why are you shaking," the officer demanded of him. As his nightmare continued, six police officers gathered at the scene. He found himself being patted down with his hands on the hood of the car. Drug sniffing dogs were brought to the scene to search his car. In a particularly embarrassing moment, a client of the businessman drove by among many others, looking on in shock at what he had just witnessed. The officer relentlessly badgered him for answers about his whereabouts. Finally, after nearly an hour, the officer tossed his driver's license, registration and proof of insurance onto the street. "You got lucky today," the officer said as he walked away.

If Scott Newman believes that routine traffic stops such as the one this man encountered at 6:45 a.m. this past Monday is legal, then he better head back to law school. This police officer had absolutely no probable cause for pulling this man over other than his belief that a white man should not be driving in this particular black neighborhood at that time of day. The victim in this case has filed a complaint with the City. If the City is wise, a public apology will be immediately issued to this man for the police officer's gross misconduct. I think we all share a commitment to bringing crime under control in Indianapolis. But this kind of police misconduct cannot be tolerated for a moment. If you want to stop someone for speeding, ignoring a stop sign or driving with a headlight out, that's fine. Profiling drivers based on race in a particular setting, black or white, stopping them and then subjecting them to unreasonable searches and detentions is simply unacceptable.


Eclecticvibe said...

Wow Gary. I agree with you on a race issue. Hope I haven't caught Republican from you! :-)

varangianguard said...

Somehow, I think that someone thinks that traffic stops are an effective policy of "showing the flag" as in "proving" to the (law-abiding) citizenry that the police aren't just sitting around at Dunkin' Donuts® all night drinking coffee.

In my opinion, that is a wrong-headed and counter-productive policy that will come to the issue forefront during the next Mayoral campaign.

Chandler said...

Scott Newman is not and never was a police officer. This is called desperation! "if I stop a lot of people someone might just have drugs". Another demonstration of Greg Ballard's failures and bad judgment! Go back to your DNA Lab!

thundermutt said...

Ok, so I'm a caucasian male working in an African-American neighborhood. When I am out walking or getting lunch or dinner, I already get the "what're YOU doing here" stares that are a "normal" part of race "relations". (Eat lunch at the Country Kitchen at 19th & College sometime.)

And now, on my way to or from work, or while walking in the neighborhood, I also have to worry about cowboy IMPD officers stopping me and demanding my life story?


Unknown said...

If the races were reversed I'd say this was about Carmel. Martinsville gets a bad rap. Carmel is the worst place in the state for local police for targetting and pulling over black motorists, as well as older cars with out of county plates.

Whether it is a black or white motorist, police officers can't just pull over any car they want. They have to have some cause. Unfortunately cops too often don't follow the law.

Mann Law, P.C. said...

I explain to the typical law abiding client's who encounter such actions by police that this has been happining for years. At least back to the Goldsmith days (the mold by which Newman and Brizzi were cast). They are shocked. My career criminal types don't even bring it up since they have encountered it their entire lives. So long as the "law abiding" people keep voting for the professed law and order types (evidently illgeal searches and going in to peoples homes and cars isn't breaking the law to them) so long as the person offended is poor or not in my neighborhood.

Unknown said...

How interesting - doesn't this happen to blacks and other minorities frequently when they are "out of place" in white neighborhoods?

It seems like we are all too willing to accept the reverse of this scenario, but when it happens to a Caucasian, watch out.

David C Roach said...

wow! I cant believe that we are fighting terrorists averseas, so we dont have to fight them here, yet, we allow the local "GESTAPO"?KGB/etc to terrorize us citizens in our own homeland.
This is also typical here in fort wayne- where here are a few recent examples- i spotted 2 cops on 2 occassions, in 2 church parking lots, parked back far enough to constitute a speed trap- one of them- i asked- why not pull right up front, and show the public you're here? he said he was stopping bikers doing wheelies.
whatever officer dude.
another ocassion- same sector- different cop- i witnessed "fort waynes finest- driving towards a busy intersection- milkshake/slurpee/soda(24-32 oz range) driving with it in his left hand, and fiddleing with his computer/cellphone, etc in his right hand- he was watching the screen- not the traffic in fron of him, all while blosing through a yellow light.
in a hurry officer?
another day- watched a city cop slacking at a skateboard park- motor running- burning gas- contrary to police policy- sorry if your car gets hot- get out, or roll down the windows- maybe even chat with the skateboarders?
another time- watched a cop chatting with a bar employee- motor running- i asked who's the cop? he said i am- i said thanks for the job you all do- its thankless sometimes. now- isnt there a new rule about leaving your take-home cars motors running- wasting gas? he got a crappy with me- about time idling vs re-start- dont bs me, officer- i'm a hot-rodder from the 70's- old enough to be 1 your father, 2. old enough to know you're full of crap.
so COPS_ call off the police state.
heres a funny one- the ISP made a big pot bust in Kosciuscko county- and have the pot plants- 5000 of them drying in an "undisclosed warehouse". the staff are all complaining about the smell, and headaches- i called my local ISP post, and volunteered as an "altruistic citizen" who was "Immune" to pot- to mind the store for them; and suggested they could sell it or barter it with the RCMP, or other state police where dope is legal, and somehow get money through "interagency transfer" for their equipment fund, or raises, or pensions- the SGT. said "become drug dealers?" i said not exactly, but if you want to call it that- its sort of along those lines. then i wished the ISP officer a great day- he had a giggle.
most cops are cool- i think- but its the hard noses- or the command staffs who order them to raise money for the city/court system/lawyers, bail bondsmen, and all the others who depend on a police state extracting money from other wise harmless citizens.
meanwhile- the FWPD still hanst solved or arrested anyone ioin a double homicide- "sharon tate" pregnant womans murder from april- right across from my own neoighborhood.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Charlotte, When Scott Newman announced his intentions back in February at the neighborhood meeting I reference in the post, the audience was at least half African-American. I was surprised nobody jumped up and questioned him about it because it has been a common complaint by blacks and other minorities that police stop them without probable cause. It happened in the small town I grew up in as well. The poor, white teen-agers complained that police were always targeting them for stops to explain why they received disproportionately more traffic-related arrests, lost their driver's license and had difficulty obtaining insurance.

indyernie said...

Boo Hoo the cops aren't doing enough.
Boo Hoo the cops are too aggressive.

Quit slamming the LEO's.
These guys and gals are doing as ordered to do.

We asked the Mayor to start a campaign against crime and we are getting what we asked for.
If you have a problem call Scott Newman's office with your complaint.

If this practice will stop drug dealing and crime I’m OK with the stops.

7th CD guy said...

Whether it is a black or white motorist, police officers can't just pull over any car they want. They have to have some cause. Unfortunately cops too often don't follow the law.

It's called a "Terry Stop" (ref. Terry v. Ohio)
Unfortunately, they CAN stop you for any reason. They just have to say you looked suspicious. The courts will back them up.

Maybe this citizen should file a complaint. Maybe the complaint board will actually do something other than "rubber stamp" what the hief tells them to.

Gary R. Welsh said...

I would question whether the officer had (a) a reaonable suspicion to stop the man in question; and (b) the reasonableness of the length of the detention, with respect to the requirements of a Terry stop. An hour-long detention is arguably longer than what was necessary to conduct a reasonable investigation. More importantly, though, the officer immediately accusing the man of buying crack in a black neighborhood was completely out of line. This officer never witnessed this. He simply surmised it based upon the individual's looks, the car he was driving and the neighborhood he was in. The officer never said he was speeding, driving erratically or slowly, had a tail light out or something like this to create suspicion.

garyj said...

I would recommend a call to the complaint office.
317-327-3427. If more than 60 days have passed, don't bother.
A complaint has to filed within 60 calendar days.
7th cd guy.
We don't "rubber stamp" what the "heif" wants. (I think you meant the Chief). There is actually a lot of discussion on many cases. You should come down sometime and watch the process. It's actually more work than you may think. Lots of reading and trying to decide whose version to believe.

Unknown said...

7th CD, that's not what Terry v. Ohio says. Terry gives police officers the right to conduct a search when questioning someone they have a reasonable suspicion had committed a crime. The search is for the officer's safety while he is conducting the investigation.

Terry does not create a blanket exception that allows cops to pull over any car they want. You still need probable cause. I'm not saying the cop wouldn't lie about the reason for the stop. Cops lie all the time.

Mann Law, P.C. said...


Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
The first variant was written by Franklin, with quotation marks but almost certainly his original thought, sometime shortly before February 17, 1755 as part of his notes for a proposition at the Pennsylvania Assembly. See Memoirs of the life and writings of Benjamin Franklin. [1]

artfuggins said...

The buck stops with Ballard him

straight up said...

Welcome to Gary's world, where hearsay is accepted as THE truth.


You may be willing to to base a story as 100% accurate based upon your friend's word, but fortunately, courts, or in this case, a review board, will take a more professional approach to an investigation.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Not hearsay. I got it straight from the suspect's mouth.