Is Black American fear of police real and/or justified?

Lisa Mahone was on the way to see her mother at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County when she was pulled over for a seat belt violation by Hammond [IL] Police officers.  She also had her boyfriend, Jamal Jones, and two kids in the back seat.  The video above shows how that traffic stop ended.  During the course of the 20 minute traffic stop, Mahone spent time on the phone with 911 operators explaining that she was in fear of her life because the cops pulled their guns on the family.

“I’m scared for my life,” Mahone is heard on the video telling a 911 dispatcher with officers looming outside. “He just pulled a gun on us and we don’t have a gun.”

Source: 5NBC Chicago

The guns were pulled when officers asked Jones to produce ID and he reached into the center console of the car in what I guess was him retrieving that requested ID.  The officers claimed that they were fearful that he was reaching for a weapon, so they drew their guns.  Now, where have we heard that one before?  Yeah, South Carolina.

With guns drawn on them, Jones claimed to be afraid to exit the vehicle because he didn’t know what was going to happen.  Given the high profile police shootings of unarmed Black men recently, there may indeed be some justification for that fear.  That said, there doesn’t appear to be much of a sympathetic ear amongst the law enforcement community.  Why do I say that, let’s compare this traffic stop with another one involving a seat belt infraction.

EMMETT TOWNSHIP,  Mich. — He could have given her a ticket and a fine, but a public safety officer from Emmett Township, Michigan chose a different route when he stopped the driver.

Officer Ben Hall was on his patrol when he pulled the vehicle over for a traffic violation.

When he talked with the driver, he noticed a small child in the car who was wearing a seat belt but not in a child’s car seat.

The young mother told the Officer she understood the importance of having a child in a car seat, but could not afford one because of her limited income at the time.

Rather than giving the young mother a traffic ticket, Officer Hall had the mother pull into a Walmart parking lot, where he went inside and purchased a car seat for her daughter.

Officer Hall is being hailed by many for considering the moment and doing a good deed.

Source: WREG3 CBS Memphis

Sp, what is the difference between these two stops?  Could the Hammond stop been handled differently?  I guess that depends on who you ask.  The police do face the threat of people turning weapons against them in quick order.  They have to be ready to deal with any threat they may encounter.  Sometimes, the threat rises with the way people are treated.  According to Lt Richard Hoyda of the Hammond Police:

“In general, 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, Hammond Police Lt. Richard Hoyda said in a statement.

Hoyda added that officers feared for their own safety because one officer said he saw Jones drop his hands behind the center console of the vehicle. They removed him after repeated requests to exit the vehicle and after they say Mahone “shifted her car into drive and moved her vehicle in a forward motion.

Source: 5NBC Chicago

Is it a training issue where people are approached differently based on the situation?  I don’t want to make this a racial issue as there are people treated like this across the board.  However, the cases that make the news typically involves Black people getting stopped by the police.

Will I have guns drawn on me while complying with an officer’s request to produce my ID?  I don’t think I should fear the very people who are sworn to protect my safety, but there are a few instances that make me really wonder about this.  I’ll have to get me a suction cup and clip to attach my license to my window before I leave my driveway from now on.  That way, I’ll have at least one potential problem mitigated if I happen to get pulled over.



4 thoughts on “Is Black American fear of police real and/or justified?

  1. In most of the films I’ve seen, I think race is clearly an issue. It seems to be here. The excuse for stopping the car was a seat belt violation, but apparently their beef with the male passenger was that he told them he didn’t have ID. This is “all black men are dangerous” thinking. No passenger is legally required to carry ID.

    The other issue seems to be compliance, and this just goes to the nature of many of the people who become cops. Many cops are rigid, authoritarian people who give orders and go ballistic if anyone challenges them. Even if the cop is clearly, unmistakeably in the wrong, arguing is going to get you in trouble. The mom who got a new car seat was probably very compliant in her encounter with the cop. This couple wasn’t compliant, and the more they didn’t comply, the more determined the cops became. (That business about removing the man from the car because they were in fear for their lives is hogwash. The officer didn’t break that window and taze the man because of a sudden surge of fear. He did it deliberately, as an escalation of force, a proof of his power over them, and a punishment for their lack of obedience.)

    I understand these people are suing the police force. I hope they get rich.


    • I’m less inclined to say race is a primary issue more than I’d suggest socioeconomic status would be. For example, put the Black family in a M-Class Mercedes SUV. Do you think we’d see the same results if they were driving such a vehicle and looked like they came from big money?

      Vice versa, put the White family in a beat up Saturn in an area where meth is an issue. Do you think she gets the car seat or a ticket?

      Biases are very powerful, and they can make potentially bad situations even worse when we allow them to think and act for us. Those same biases can be helpful in making us more aware of our surroundings in a threatening situation or environment.

      I think the situation could have been handled without the glass breaking or the taser deployment. If there’s an issue dragging on for 20 minutes, what’s the harm with getting a higher ranking officer out to try to deescalate the situation?


      • I tend to agree with you on this, looking at it through the prism of my own personal experience. Certain people get the benefit of the doubt and others don’t. I’ve three moving violations in my life, one of which was dismissed and another which was total horseshit…..but anyhow….

        I’ve learned a couple of things that might help people. First thing is don’t get out of the car before you’re told, keep your hands up on the steering wheel before they get to the car, so they can see them. When they ask for your license, say, “It’s in my wallet, purse, whatever”…..just to give them an idea what your movements will be. If you get a good, conscientious, well trained guy, this will help him see that things are okay and will ratchet things down a little. It probably shouldn’t really be on the person being stopped to do that but it is what it is.

        If you get stopped by an asshole, though, he’s gonna do what he’s gonna do. Once I got stopped for a headlight out. It wasn’t quite good dusk yet so I was unaware it was out but I did have the lights on. First thing the guy said when he walked up was “How much have you had to drink tonight?” (at this point I had no idea why I was being stopped, as I had seen the guy turn well in advance to be sure I wasn’t speeding or anything). So I says, “Not a damn thing”. It was on then, as I do have a quick temper. Anyhow, I got fined but I got my money’s worth. 😆

        Another time at a detour roadblock, I of course stopped just to see what I needed to do, and this guy walks up and tells me I need to wash my truck. I says, “I’ll let you wash it”. I think he was trying to be funny but I think he had enough judgement to see I wasn’t in the mood and sort of backed up (figuratively).

        I do feel for the guys who try to do the job the correct way. They catch a lot of grief for what some are doing. I think for those types who are causing the problems, it’s a power trip.

        And back to your example of the car, etc, I think there’s a lot to that. I find if you’re dressed up and your car is clean and such, you get a different attitude than if you have your dirty work clothes on and smell like a hog because you’ve been working in July or something. I’ve noticed that in my own experience, anyhow. It’s much the same in stores, too, but I guess I’m just rambling now. 😉


        • Nah, not rambling. You’re preaching the truth, and I’m not one to step in the way of a good sermon.

          I do the same thing when stopped. If it’s at night, I turn on the dome lights, and I will cut the car off. I keep my hands at 10 and 2 until asked to do something. When I move, I’ll say what I’m doing and my movements are slow and deliberate.

          When I was in Montgomery, I’d turn the car off and put the keys around a finger on my left hand so the cop could see the keys were not in the ignition when he approached.

          I don’t think people should have to do that just to avoid getting a beatdown, but when there are those who will fight or shoot it out with cops, we bear the cross that others build.


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