Thursday, March 22, 2012

Profiling:

I recently spent a week in Tucson, AZ and Nogales, Sonora with Borderlinks exploring the issues surrounding the border and the surrounding migration situation. It was a very emotional week, as we heard the stories of undocumented migrants and their struggle to survive in the desert in the hopes of getting to the States and maybe a job, which would help their families, who in many cases were starving. They face horrible odds in surviving the trip and the dangers of being deported. In Arizona the laws permit people to be stopped if they appear to be undocumented, which usually means that anyone with a darker skin, not matter their status can be stopped and questioned. This is profiling in the worst sense. It becomes a racial issue and is the window to abuse of power.

Today on the last leg of my driving home to Ohio from Tucson, I also experienced a case of profiling in Indiana. While my life was not in jeopardy, I was singled out by a State Trooper and felt very threatened. It made me realize how people that appear different as racially profiled on a daily basis. The results of assuming someone who looks different can result in horrible consequences, such as the young man in Florida who was killed recently.

I was approaching Indianapolis on a 4 lane highway when the traffic started to slow down and I looked around to see if I had missed a speed limit change. I then noticed that a State Trooper was behind me and had turned on his flashers so I pulled over to the side of the road and stopped. He came up on the passenger side and asked for my license and registration, which I immediately gave him. He then commented that he was stopping me for traveling too close to the truck in front of me and that in Indianapolis they were concerned about traffic congestion and safety. I commented that I might have been too close and I understood his concern. It did mystify me why I was pulled over, while over people traveling similar to me were not. When the following conversation took place I realized that I had been profiled. I had out of state plates and was driving a BMW and when he realized I was a little scruffy with my beard and do-rag. This is not the first time I have been pulled over as a result of driving a BMW. After the following conversation, which I conducted with respect, did I realize that he did not have the right to be asking me these questions. If had realized by rights I would have declined to answer them by saying “I choose to remain silent”. The end result was a warning about driving too close, but that occurred after he asked me the following.

Trooper: Where are you coming from?
Me: Tucson
Trooper: Why were you in Tucson?
Me: Visiting my Uncle and participating in a Borderlinks week.
Trooper: What is Borderlinks?
Me: I was part of church group that was looking the Border Issues
Trooper: There certainly are issues with the Border. What did you deal with.
Me: The deaths of undocumented migrants
Trooper: Did you stay at a church?
Me: No we stayed in a dormitory.
Trooper: When did I leave home?
Me: Feb 8th on a road trip with my wife through Florida, New Orleans, Texas and Tucson.
Trooper: Where is you wife?
Me: She flew home.
Trooper: Do you have any large sums of money with you?
Me: Thirty-five dollars for food till I get home.
Trooper: Do have any Marijuana in the car?
Me: No.

At this point he went back to his vehicle and eventually came back with a printed warning and said “Have a good day”

I kept my cool, but as the questions went on I really began to wonder about my rights and why he was asking them. Wanting to know where my wife, was completely out of line, as were most of his questions.

I am now very upset with happened and if Indianapolis were not so far away I would follow up with his department on their procedures and the legality of how I was questioned.

I wish I had the information from this website: http://policecrimes.com/police.html
before this incident had happened. I then would have answered: “I choose to remain silent”. However I was tired and wanted to get home so I did not question what he was doing!

I also have been stopped in the past for taking pictures of cows and farms from the public highway.

This type of profiling and intimidation needs to be stopped.