Driving while black in America. Screen shot.
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Driving While Black Chapter 647: Congress may be taking a break, but stupid racist cops are evidently still hard at work. In their latest act of serving and protecting, two cops in Des Moines, Iowa stopped, hassled and handcuffed two young black guys for wildly improbable cause in what one victim's mother said should be "a how-not-to video for the police." Blood-boiling film of the stop in Polk County, Iowa - about 90% white - shows officers Kyle Thies and Natalie Heinemann pulling over Montray Little, 23, and his passenger Jared Clinton, 21, both of Des Moines. Because they live in an America where a cop recently explained he pulled his gun on a driver "because you're not white," both Little and Clinton promptly put their hands in the air and respond with no sir's and yes sir's to Thies' increasingly dubious questions.
"The park closed a half-hour ago, and you guys were leaving the park and then you didn't fully stop at the stop sign" (even though they did), Thies notes ominously. After repeatedly asking Little if this is his car and Little repeatedly explaining it's a rental and Thies bizarrely probing just how the key works, he says he smells weed and suspects Clinton has a gun because he's "acting funny," though no way maybe because both men rightly fear for their lives. "Your buddy's giving me the idea that maybe he's got a gun, you know what I mean?" Thies says. "How?" asks Little. "Just the way you're holding yourself, man," he responds. He offers more sophisticated scientific analysis - "You're making me think something funny's going on" - as he pulls Little from the car under threat of arrest, handcuffs him, notes he can hear Little's heart beating fast so what's up with that, and pats him down while pulling down his pants. The police ransack the car looking for weed or guns, but less than surprisingly find nothing.
After the video surfaced, Des Moines police insisted they do not racially profile - "Our officers know (that) is unacceptable” - despite a 2016 report by the ACLU/Human Rights Watch showing black Iowans are seven times more likely to be arrested for drug possession or other minor offenses than whites, the second-worst ranking in the country. According to Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, which released the video, Thies has a history of targeting African-Americans; they cite data showing that of almost 300 people he booked last year, either 100% or 50% were black, depending on how you're counting - many suspects face multiple charges. Police spokesman Sgt. Paul Parizek concedes those numbers "look horrible" but really aren't. As to the latest incident with Thies, he says, “We never hide from anything. We’re fair and equitable in our policing, and (we) thoroughly investigate all these things." Neither Thies nor Heinemann are currently facing any disciplinary action.
Still, the citizens' group says it's "a little disappointed" by the latest egregious act of racial profiling in their midst, and many residents are calling for Thies to be fired. Clinton's mother Laurel is more than a little pissed. She says she continually talks to her three sons about how to act and interact with police - "Don't smoke in your car, keep your music low, wear your seat belt" and, if stopped, keep your hands visible and comply - but shouldn't have to. Jared just cut off his dreadlocks in hopes of minimizing constant police hassling, she says, and he "did everything to de-escalate that situation," but enough is enough. "I'm horrified," she says. "Our kids are barely making it out of routine traffic stops. We've been lulled into some kind of security, thinking, 'Oh, at least you didn't get killed or go to jail,' as some prize for being harassed...This stuff goes unnoticed, and there are no consequences."