Making headlines all across the country is the disturbing story of an Arizona State University professor who was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer during a jaywalking stop. As to be expected with cases involving the police and African-Americans, questions are being raised about the validity of the charges and the use of excessive force. According to reports, Ersula Ore, a professor in Cultural Studies and Communications, was arrested in late May after she refused to show ID to an ASU police officer who was citing her with a jaywalking violation. The rest gets ugly. Warning: the following footage is disturbing.
This story – namely, a black college professor being on the receiving end of excessive force, isn’t new. A lot of what I wanted to say about this story was pretty much addressed in posts I wrote about Skip Gates. If you feel inclined, check them out here and here.
But specifically to the heart of this story, I think I understand why she refused to show her ID, especially if she disagreed with the merit of the charges. The jaywalking citation is said to have been because of nearby construction, forcing her to cross the street where she did. But I’ll leave those facts up to the court to examine. So I see why she may have felt compelled to challenge the officer. It does seem rather egregious to be stopped for jaywalking by a figure of authority who is rude, overly aggressive and who likely singled you out for racial reasons. I get it.
However, if IT WAS ME, I would’ve just complied and shut up about it.
As you can see from the video, attempting to convey her dissatisfaction with the citation and her subsequent refusal to comply with the officer’s request to produce ID only exacerbated the problem. Interacting with police – especially under these kind of circumstances – require extreme caution, so as to avoid conflict. Getting into a shouting match, or even trying to civilly question the arresting officer backfired here. As I’ve said before, when dealing with people of authority, cooperation and compliance are NOT the enemy. Simply producing ID (assuming she had it on her person) would have likely turned this into a simple citation she could have challenged at a later time. But by refusing the produce that ID, Professor Ore offered a tacit admission – whether it was her intention or not – that she had something to hide. Verbally stating her credentials wasn’t enough for this officer. He
needed wanted to see ID. Should she (or any other black folk mind their own business) have to prove who she is? Maybe. Maybe not. But we see what not doing so led to.
Just to show that I’m not talking from a bully pulpit with no experience on the matter, the following happened to me just a few months ago. One night, I was going by dad’s place on the north side of Flint. For those of you unfamiliar with Flint, the North side is arguably the worst part of the city. Suddenly, two state cops (one male, one female. Both were white) pulled me over for a broken headlight. It actually was out, so I don’t challenge the validity of the stop (I would argue that in a city dubbed by the FBI as one of the most dangerous in the country, a broken headlight should rank pretty low on the list of priorities. But I digress.). Where it got unnerving was when they proceeded to have me step out of the vehicle, frisk me, and search my car. I’m not entirely sure what prompted that search. But whatever the case, I learned that night what I had always suspected: compliance works. Despite the embarrassment of gawking passersby watching the whole scene play out, I did as I was told. I produced my identification. I placed my hands on the roof of my car. I allowed the officers to search me. I allowed them to search my vehicle. I spoke when I was spoken to. Some of you may say that I was being too lax on my rights and subservient to these officers…and you’d probably be correct. But I walked away from that experience with nothing but a warning. Cookie’s boy is still alive and well to tell this story, without having spent a minute in jail, a second at the hospital, or a week being the subject of a “Justice for Andre” vigil because of my interaction with the police went south. I can live with that.
Update: Professor Ore has pled guilty to resisting arrest.
What say you? What would you have done in if you were Professor Ore? Did the police exercise excessive force or was it appropriate for the situation? Holler at me!