Student Blog Posts

Driving While Black, Part II: A Ticket 16 Days Later! By Marvis L. Hardy

According to a report in the Washington Post, nationwide, 175 young black men between the ages of 18-29 have been shot and killed by police officers since January, 2015. The report also concluded that Black Americans are 2.5 times as likely as White Americans to be shot and killed by police officers, and unarmed Black Americans are five times more likely than unarmed White Americans to be shot and killed by a police officer. Thus, when a Black person is stopped by a police officer there is a strong justification for fear and intrepidation on the part of the Black person. The intimation of death seems to arrive with the presence of the police. In my last blog, I described how I was stopped by officers of the Chicago Police Department for a missing rear license plate. When they got out of their car, they approached me with their weapons in their hands. One officer held his gun in my direction the entire time, while another stood watch in front of my car with his weapon in hand. All for a traffic stop. Now I think statistics will support the fact that more citizens are killed by cops during traffic stops than are police officers killed by citizens. I couldn’t find any statistics for any Chicago police officers killed during traffic stops in 2016, or 2015, or 2014. Yet, these officers felt the need to approach a woman alone in a van with their weapons drawn, ready to attack and kill if necessary. What type of world are we living in??

However, much to my dismay, that was not the end of my story. I was so upset about what happened that 6 days after I was stopped, I posted the incident on my Facebook page. And as I previously stated, I received several anonymous and belligerent posts. I was stopped by the police on July 27, and on August 3, I posted my complaint on my Facebook page. By August 5th, I had received no less than 3 nasty and anonymous posts defaming me, specifically for my complaint against the Chicago Police Department. All of the anonymous posters supported the actions of the Chicago police officers. Now as I said in my previous post, I had no problem with the police stopping me, but was deadly intimidation necessary? Was it necessary to be rude, condescending and threatening for a missing license plate? (And actually my license plate was mot missing it was visible in the window. Had they taken the time to do a visual inspection of my car, they would have seen the license plate IN THE WINDOW.)

But, like I said, the story doesn’t end here. On August 13, 2016, my birthday, I received a letter in the mail from the City of Chicago. It was a traffic ticket (Notice of Violation) for driving with “missing license plate.” 16 days after the police officer stopped me and gave me a verbal warning, I received a ticket in the mail for the same offense. It even listed a ticket number and the date the offense actually occurred. But the Notice of Violation was dated August 11, 2016. Now since when do the police issue tickets 16 days after the alleged violation? However, the bigger issue here is that I believe the Notice of Violation was a direct response to my Facebook complaint because the violation was only 6 days after I received the negative comments on my Facebook page. Of course I was livid. I immediately sent a letter to the Police Department and the Mayor. I also intend to present my documentation to the Department of Justice during their upcoming town hall meeting about police misconduct in Chicago. (Its September 10th at Trinity United Church of Christ, 10AM.)

If it had not happened to me, I would not have believed this could happen to anyone, White or Black. But the reality is the misconduct of police officers goes much higher than the officers on the street. Whoever sent me that Notice of Violation was upset enough about my comments, and my lack of response to their comments, to commit a crime greater than mine. This type of behavior and abuse of power must be stopped. Statistics demonstrate that while roughly 4,000 Black lives have been lost since 2005, shot and killed by police officers, only 13 officers have been convicted of murder or manslaughter for these shooting deaths. If they can continue to get away with murder, they will continue to do so. And if they can get away with murder, then other petty crimes, like intimidating those who speak out against them, are just mere demonstrations of their power. Our lives and the future of our children depends on us standing up for just-us! It’s time to break the silence. Our God is a God of justice. We must speak justice for it to live. But we must seek justice for it to be!