Thursday, August 25, 2005

Is Broken Springs Racist?

A recent Washington study has found that minorities nationwide are more likely to be searched, handcuffed, arrested, and subjected to force or the threat of it after routine traffic stops by police officers.

Similar allegations were made against the Broken Springs Police Department nearly two years ago after a black man running for Village Council was detained, searched, and harassed while distributing his campaign fliers on foot. Several black residents then accused the department of racial profiling at the next township meeting, forcing the department to investigate the allegations made against them. The Broken Springs Police Department’s investigation concluded that the Broken Springs Police Department only pulled over minorities who were guilty of breaking the law, and furthermore, white people were often pulled over for similar infractions. These conclusions temporarily exonerated the department against the serious allegations of racism made by the citizens. But the recent Washington study has reopened the two year old investigation on the tip that racial profiling still runs rampant in the grand metropolis known as Broken Springs, whose population is 1,800 and dropping.

Here at NFBS we decided to do a little investigating ourselves. While Broken Springs is 77% white, according to the 2000 census, apparently most of the white population stays in their house around the clock, probably watching the Price is Right or Wheel of Fortune, judging from their average age of 78.2. A casual stroll through Broken Springs reveals people of all colors and shades, and nowhere do whites dominate our quaint little town except for local government.

As part of our survey, we asked everyone who wandered into the Dairy King whether or not they’d been pulled over by a Broken Springs cop in the last year. Six in ten answered affirmative. When asked about the reasons for being stopped, only two in ten were given one by the officer who pulled them over. Reasons, when given, varied from having a taillight out, to going 26 in the 25 mph zone, and one blonde haired woman who drove away from the gas station without removing the gas pump from her car. One particular gentleman of darker skin tone said he was once pulled over because the trailer hitch on his vehicle was obstructing the view of his license plate. He wouldn’t name the officer who stopped him, other than to say he was, “a short, fat little f*&^ with a bad attitude.” We asked him to be more specific.

Of all those questioned, of which 60 percent were non-white, six out of ten said that local cops harass minorities. Four in ten disagreed, adding that, “Those porch monkeys got it coming.”

When questioned about being frisked, and having their vehicles searched, most female and a few male respondents blushed so heavily we further inquired why a simple question should cause such embarrassment. As an anonymous 14-year-old girl told us shyly, “I’m sure the officer didn’t mean to grab my breast like that as he frisked me for dangerous explosives and narcotics at a Broken Springs football game. Of course, I never told anyone, not even my pastor.”

Our poll indicates that the younger you are, the more likely you are to have your vehicle searched in Broken Springs. Without probable cause or the consent of the operator of the car, vehicle searches are illegal, according to Police Commission Attorney, Charles Amnesia at the July Police Commission meeting. Less than one in ten who took our survey were aware that the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution protects them not only from the federal government, but from the Broken Springs Police Department as well.

So our conclusions are as follows:
Are Broken Springs police officers racist? Probably no more so than any other small town police officers. Are other small town police officers racist? As Chief Kingston might say, “Do n!&&*^$ like watermelon?”