Not long ago, I reposted a disturbing (to me) live video clip of two police officers being confronted by a gentleman named Damieon Flowers, for taking personal information from three young kids.
My sharing made some people color-mad. Black people were angry at what they saw. But, some white people got angry with me. (Aren’t you surprised?) I was thoroughly chastised. Those hard-working police officers were interrupted from doing their world-saving job while that black man harassed them. I should have been ashamed of myself for sharing such garbage and stirring up trouble. (Ummhmm…)
Imagine how the conversation could have gone, had I been asked, why does this disturb black people? Or even, why did I choose to post it? That would have been civil, helpful, and possibly enlightening. I guess it’s hard to be enlightened and judgmental at the same time.
Not to worry, I’m going to explain what I saw in the clip for those lacking inner-city scenery. It looked like Stop and Frisk –Kiddie Edition.
To begin, this is nothing new. I don’t know if it has a formal name, but when I was younger, the adults in my apartment building called it ‘tagging.’ (Just like what they do with animals to track their behavior). All the kids were constantly warned not to get tagged. In other words, unless something has happened, don’t talk to the police…about anything. It was for two reasons. One: If you want to know about any possible illegal activities inside a house, it’s not difficult to pull it from the kids playing out front. And two: quotas. Patrol officers are expected to write reports and produce numbers. Those numbers have to come from somewhere.
As for the officers, I doubt they’re thinking anything malicious. But they do want to get paid so they need to make their quotas. Throwing a few young names on some stop and frisk reports is a quick way to get through a slow night.
Unfortunately, those names aren’t written in disappearing ink. Get stopped enough times, have the same information recorded over and over again for a couple of years, and it begins to look as if that juvenile is potentially problematic. If a real issue occurs, he already has strikes against how he is perceived. That is a real-time possible consequence of riding your bike in the city.
It’s very un-fun for us. It makes us angry. It makes us repost videos and applaud Mr. Flowers for protecting those children.
As for the non-personal experience judgments…
How do I know if that was precisely what was going on? I don’t, BUT…
Besides having seen and experienced tagging first hand, and knowing what stop and frisk looks like, there are some other things to consider.
1 – If the police in the clip were doing legitimate police work, I doubt a bystander would have stopped them. Obstruction of justice and whatnot.
2 – A genuine issue should have prompted protocol (and decency). Due to the trickiness of juvenile laws, the good cops I know (yes, they exist) would have put those kids in the safest environment possible, like, talking to them in the presence of an adult they trust. I’ve seen it done. Plenty of my childhood friends have been brought home first and then questioned about what they may have seen/done.
It’s necessary to address a couple of theories. Someone suggested the possibility of the kids being runaways and the person filming stopped the cops from helping them.
That would be seriously poor policing, I think.
Another comment was to throw shade on the type of parenting that would allow kids to be outside after dark, by themselves.
Besides, not having anything at all to do with the subject, since when does out-of-line-of-vision mean unsupervised when you are old enough to ride a bicycle? My personal assumptions lean more toward ‘permission to ride to the store’ (urban plus -there’s always one nearby), or ‘Yes, you guys can stay out for ten more minutes…stay together and don’t go any farther than…’ I imagined a worried mom/aunt walking up the street searching for her—now late—boys.
I admit, bad parenting wasn’t my first thought. But then again, neither was justification or diversion.
I’ll add one more image to boys-on-bikes-at-night in the city. When my mother worked the three to eleven shift, at eleven-thirty, my brother was there waiting for her to get off the bus. It was a good hike from the bus stop to our house. He often rode his bike (maturity is an inner-city staple).
Back to Mr. Flowers. Days later, a swat team showed up to arrest him (yes, swat, because that’s normal) but because of the visibility and support, there were no charges filed.
According to Mr. Flowers, his reaction was to the fear he saw the children displaying. It appeared to be stop and frisk –kiddie edition. Since he was there (and he caught backlash for speaking out), I’ll take his word for it.
But, be angry with me and judge away. For some people, anger is much better than solution.