THE AMERICAN TRAGEDY – Police and the Racial Divide



“What do we do about the inherent racism that were seeing over and over and over again in these United States during these traffic stops,” asks CCN Legal Analyst Sunny Hostin.

Hostin’s claims of racism were immediately rebuked by CNN Legal Analyst Paul Callan who suggested, “There’s no evidence this is a race incident, if this was a white family this could have happened.”

Hostin vigorously disagrees.

The incident at the center of the debate involved the traffic stop of an African-American man named Jamal Jones.  The t-stop occurred on September 24th, 2014 in Hammond, Indiana, a small City near Chicago, Illinois.  Hammond has a population of approximately 80,000 and employs two-hundred and eleven (211) police officers.   Twenty-percent (20%) of the officers are African-American, a fair representation of the community it serves suggests the Hammond Police Chief.

Jones was a passenger in a motor vehicle stopped by police for a traffic violation.   The driver, Lisa Mahone, was pulled over for failing to wear her seat belt.  The couples fourteen (14) year old son and seven (7) year old daughter were in the back seat of the vehicle.  The son recorded the incident on a smart phone.

During the t-stop police asked Jones to exit the vehicle after he failed to provide proper identification.  Jones repeatedly ignored the officer’s requests and the situation escalated.  Police indicate they had concerns for officer safety after Jones made furtive moves with his hands.

(*In 2013,  100 U.S. law-enforcement officers were killed. On average, over the past decade, there have been 58,261 assaults against law enforcement each year, resulting in 15,658 injuries.)

Jones continued to refuse to exit the vehicle and engaged the officers in verbal judo for over thirteen (13) minutes.  Police subsequently smashed the passenger side window, deployed a taser and forcibly removed him.

The horrified children can be heard sobbing in the background of the recording.

The Hammond Police Department is standing behind the officers involved in the incident;

“Police officers who make legal traffic stops are allowed to ask passengers inside of a stopped vehicle for identification and to request that they exit a stopped vehicle for the officer’s safety without a requirement of reasonable suspicion,” Police Spokesman Lt. Richard Hoyda said.

CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Tom Fuentes suggested a more temperate approach should have been used;

“Just because the police could do it, doesn’t mean they should. My question here is the judgment that they used smashing that window with the kid in the car and four passengers in that car if there could have been another way to get around that.”

Meanwhile Sunny Hostin did what any intelligent lawyer would do, she researched the subject to find the relevant case law.

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Her tweet prompted me to weigh in;

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Although Sunny didn’t respond, one of her supporters took up her cause;

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Enter the balancing act between exercising your rights and using your God-given ability to use logic and common sense.  Like Tom Fuentes said, “Just because the police could do it, doesn’t mean they should.”  Conversely, I respectfully suggest the same goes for the Jamal Jones’ of the world.  Just because you can resist Law Enforcement doesn’t mean you necessarily should.

Jamal Jones had plenty of time to consider his course of action and the potential for a negative outcome.  Do I comply with the police officers requests or do I remain resistant and see how things turn out?  Did Jones stop and consider what the impact of his resistance might be on the young children in the rear passenger seats?  Was he not able to anticipate the eventual outcome?

If Mr Jones opted to yield to the officers requests I suspect he would’ve been detained for a few minutes and sent on his way.  But that’s not what happened.  He decided to play the game and now has to live with the results.

Was this a racist traffic stop or was it more about the clash of male egos and testosterone?

There’s a growing trend in America and its most disturbing.

People no longer have respect for Law Enforcement.

Canadians are not immune to this shift in culture.

As a child my father drilled the notion we should respect police officers into my brain.  Police Officers had authority that was to be respected.  I received the same message regarding parents, teachers and almost any adult.

Times have changed.

Where did it all begin to go wrong?

The respect for Government significantly eroded during the 1960’s.  That reality was artfully illustrated in the CNN original series, The Sixties – The Decade that Shaped America.  It only makes sense, as an arm of Government, respect for Law Enforcement would certainly decline.  The respect for parents, teachers and all things connected to “the establishment” also began to diminish during the counterculture generation.

That lack of respect now manifests itself in generations of people who opt to challenge the authority of the police officers they encounter.

Its called non-compliance and it can have deadly consequences.

Non-compliance was a key factor in the recent death of Eric Garner (43) who died on July 17, 2014 in New York City after  being wrestled to the ground by police officers arresting him for the unlawful sale of cigarettes.

Non-compliance was a key factor in the recent death of Daniel Satre (43) who died on September 21, 2014 after being tasered by police in Ballston Spa, New York.

Non-compliance during the initial confrontation with police may turn out to be a contributing factor in the police shooting death of Michael Brown (18) on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.  (The Grand Jury continues to weigh evidence in the case.)

Non-compliance was a key factor in the death of Winnipeg teen Michael Langan (17) who was tasered by police investigating a robbery on July 22, 2008.

Non-compliance was been identified as a key factor in many fatal officer involved shootings I’ve investigated.

It was more than a decade ago that legendary comedian Chris Rock created a “how to” educational video for the African-American community.  “How to not get your ass kicked by the Police,” was a comedy bit with a serious message.  One of those messages remains relevant today;

People encountering police should “use common sense.”

If Jamal Jones used his he might have spared his children from being traumatized in a completely avoidable confrontation with police.  Instead, he chose non-compliance.  His chosen course of conduct and the traumatic incident that followed will be indelibly imprinted on the minds of his two young children.

The message;

Resistance, noncompliance, mistrust, fear of Law Enforcement and reinforcement of the racial divide.

In my experience as a police officer, and a person of colour, I have never been witness to an incident where a compliant person was shot or subjected to excessive use of force by police officers.

Was Jamal Jones the victim of police racism or was he a victim of poor judgement?

The last word goes to CNN analyst Paul Callan who suggests, “Listen, the advice I give to my kids, don’t get into an argument with a cop because you’re never going to win.”

That’s just common sense.


*National Review Online


  1. Did the police have the right to demand this guy exit the vehicle? Maybe not (especially if they ran his name and he wasn’t wanted, etc.). Should this guy have used some common sense and complied with police? Maybe (it would have been an opportunity to demonstrate to his kids how to behave when confronted by authority). Either way, it’s a slippery slope on both sides. Many times, a little common sense, a little compassion and some humility can combine to mitigate such unfortunate incidents. I teach my kids to respect authority, say please and thank you, obey the rules and always try your hardest. I also teach them that it’s a 2-way street and sometimes you need to question authority when it feels your best interests aren’t being served.

    One thing is certain, if these people had worn their seat belts ( another valuable lesson they should be teaching their kids by example) they wouldn’t have been pulled over in the first place. (I suspect seeing their parents flying through the windshield in a crash would have been just as traumatizing).

  2. Sunny Hostin doesn’t know what she is talking about. If 20% of the officers of the Hammond Police Service are African-American, a black motorist committing an offence has an 80% chance of being pulled over by a non black officer. That is not racist, those are the odds. I have always said comply with an officer’s demands, whether they are right or wrong, because you can always complain later if you feel you have been wronged.

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