April 13, 2021 Editor

Driving While Black is still a death sentence

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WN: Words fail. . . .

Please also see here and here: Black Toronto residents 20 times more likely to be shot dead by police, study says.

Canada is also deeply racist: rampant in the criminal justice system.


There is still reform that could be done like with policing in cars. People get stopped for trivialities that are pretexts to begin investigations. An expired registration shouldn’t lead to use of force. The key thing being that in order to have that one kind of horrific incident, you need a large denomination of essentially low-grade stops that don’t escalate to violence but have that potential. The shooting or the killing is a relatively rare event, but what is not a rare event is the constant surveillance and monitoring and policing of Black people driving.Omar Wasow, a Princeton politics professor

Some were already aware that a DWB — Driving While Black — is justification for a traffic stop.

Now America is seeing the range of punishments for such an infraction can be at the very least, pepper spray to the face. And at worst — a death sentence.

Two police encounters involving Black motorists came to light over the weekend. One took place months ago in Windsor, Va., but surfaced only after the driver filed a lawsuit this month. The other took place Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn Center, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis.

In each instance, police said the initial reason for the traffic stop involved issues with license plates.

Daunte Wright was shot, allegedly by accident, by an officer who mistook her service weapon for a Taser — roughly 10 miles from the courthouse where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial in the killing of George Floyd. Wright, who was biracial, had a gross misdemeanor warrant and — perhaps — something hanging from his rearview mirror, which is illegal in Minnesota. Three officers were involved in his stop.

He’s dead now.

Caron Nazario, an Army lieutenant, who is Afro-Latino, was pulled over in December in rural Virginia. His big SUV had dark tints and temporary tags visibly taped in the back window.

He did what virtually every Black man would do at the sight of cop lights flickering behind him. At night. On a dark road.

Get somewhere — like a gas station — where there are bright lights and perhaps some witnesses.

After completing this first step of self-preservation, he goes on to the next steps of engaging an officer. He repeatedly and calmly asks officers what he had done wrong. Shows his hands. Doesn’t make sudden moves.

Two officers with guns drawn bark contradictory orders: Show your hands. Get out of the car.

“I’m serving this country and this is how I’m treated?” he asks.

Being told, “You’re fixin’ to ride the lightning, son” does not instill confidence that those who swore to protect and serve are committed to keeping you alive.

One thing was also clear — Nazario’s Army uniform was not enough to protect him from aggressive police tactics.

He was eventually sprayed at point blank range, removed from his vehicle, arrested and later freed. No charges.

The question is: Why?


To be sure, stress and danger are part of being a law enforcement officer. Still, policing in the U.S. deserves to be scrutinized so police and the communities they serve, particularly communities of color, can feel safe during encounters with law enforcement. We wanted to put the recent Virginia and Minnesota incidents in context with the greater national reckoning conversation on race and policing, politics and power.

So we reached out to Charles Wilson, the chairman of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers (NABLEO), a 45-year law enforcement veteran and former police chief. Also joining the conversation is Deborah Ramirez, a law professor at Northeastern University School of Law and chair of the school’s Criminal Justice Task Force.

CHARLES WILSON: What I’m seeing is in a word: disturbing. I see this as a lot of overreach in what officers are doing. I see it as an excuse, if you will, to further that concept of racial profiling and police brutality.

You have to take into consideration that the institution of policing, as it is currently practiced in the United States, was inherently biased against people of color and low income. It was designed to be that way. It’s been that way for over 400 years.

DEBORAH RAMIREZ: I really think right now American policing is on trial and police accountability for police brutality is on trial. The reason that we keep seeing police brutality is because police brutality remains unchecked, because the police unions, through collective bargaining, have created a system that makes it nearly impossible for police chiefs to discipline or fire officers for this kind of misconduct.

Please click on: Driving While Black a Death Sentence

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Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.

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