Thursday, November 06, 2008

Is "Babysitting While White" reasonable suspicion for police questioning?

Normally this blog focuses on the news of the day instead of personal stories, but I had an odd experience this morning that intersects with many of this blog's common themes, so I hope readers will excuse this self-indulgent anecdote.

In short, the Austin Police Department inconvenienced, annoyed, and angered me, in that order, culminating in an incident where I was subjected to an odd and surprisingly overt brand of racial profiling just two blocks from my own house.

Before getting into the racial profiling angle, though, let me provide some necessary background for this morning's anecdote. I've been taking care of my granddaughter Ty today because Austin police inexplicably ordered seven area schools shut down after a shootout overnight with police involving one suspect killed and two more still at large. Nearby day care facilities closed along with the schools, including the one where Ty usually goes. Fair enough. But when my goddaughter called in a panic with no child care for the day, it meant I found myself tasked with unplanned, impromptu babysitting duties, like hundreds of other parents and grandparents around Austin.

Two-year old Ty particularly loves a nearby neighborhood park, so off we went around mid-morning with her tiny hand wrapped around my index finger. After a fun time, we took a different route going back, at Ty's suggestion, in order to pass by a house where she knows she'll often see (and get to pet) a couple of friendly cats.

Two blocks from home, an Austin police officer pulled up and, to my surprise, got out and announced she was there to question me. Someone had called 911, she said, to report a suspicious looking white man walking down the street holding hands with a black toddler. (I could tell where this line of questioning was headed.) She said this as though it were the most natural thing in the world for police to investigate, as though my race and Ty's, in and of itself, was reason enough to stop and question me.

I've heard of racial profiling episodes involving "Driving While Black," but "Babysitting While White" is a new one on me. 'What's your relationship with this girl?', she wanted to know. 'Where are you going, where are you coming from?' "No offense," I told her, "but that's none of your business."

Not wanting to violate the failure to identify statute, I gave her my name, address and birthdate but refused to answer any other questions. ("I'm going to write down that you were noncooperative," she warned ominously, as though admonishing an elementary school student that some infraction might go on their permanent record. "Oh no, not that," I thought to myself.)

I asked if we could leave, but the officer kept me there demanding answers. "Someone complained," she declared, "we have to follow up." "Like hell you do," I told her, "not when you don't have reasonable suspicion to think I did anything wrong."

To my astonishment, while we were talking, another officer pulled up in response to the 911 call, this one a tall, older, thick-chested fellow with graying hair who felt the need to demonstrate his dominance. I replied to his "I'm in charge here" bluster by again asking, "Am I free to go?" "No you are not," he insisted, "not until I'm finished," and continued his pointless monologue.

Meanwhile, a THIRD police car pulled up to the scene. By then I was getting mad. Austin police had already disrupted my day significantly because they're supposedly out hunting armed killers, but they've got enough extra cops lollygagging around to send THREE squad cars to investigate me for Babysitting While White?

"Don't you people have actual crimes to investigate?" I demanded. (Admittedly, that didn't go over so well.)

"Aren't y'all supposed to be chasing shooters with assault rifles? Why are you bothering us?" The tall male cop replied that he'd just been at the locked down neighborhood and was working that case all morning. "Great," I thought, "so they pulled this guy off an actual crime to harass me walking down the street."

The truth is, I'm not so much angry about the racial angle. Black folks have been pointlessly stopped and questioned for generations because of their skin color in this neighborhood, and today it was just my turn. However, I adamantly maintain my skin color alone did not give police reasonable suspicion to question me, just like Driving While Black isn't a reason to pull over an African American driver (or a white driver because they're in a black neighborhood). And as a taxpayer, I'm incredulous that APD wasted three officers' time to respond to such a spurious 911 call at a moment when there were actual, violent criminals running around town with assault weapons. Don't these guys have supervisors? Prioritize, people!

Finally, the first officer answered my increasingly repetitious question, "Am I free to go?" with a reluctant "Yes," at which point I turned heel with the toddler grasped firmly in my arms and walked briskly towards home, both of us a little rattled by the experience. "They scared me, Grandpa," Ty said, sobbing lightly as she nestled her head into the crook of my neck. "I know, sweetie," I told her, "they scared me, too." And by the time we reached home, she was asleep in my arms.

116 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hopefully little Ty won't remember her first impression of a police officer. They are supposed to "help" after all.
Good grief!

Anonymous said...

Good post scott, food for thought

shg said...

Not only is it not self-indulgent, but one of the most important posts I've read in a very long time. I've posted about it just to make sure that as many people read it as possible.

Thanks for sharing your experience.

Anonymous said...

This hits very close to home for me. I am the principal of a small school with a small African American population. Like Ty the all have white grandparents.

Thank God the local deputy is the step uncle to half of them.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't a 911 call have to be responded to and investigated?

Retired 2004

Sam said...

Important post that shows us we still have a very long journey ahead of us, Barack's victory notwithstanding. To paraphrase a famous poet, "and miles and miles and miles to go"...

Kudos to you for standing your ground and keeping your calm.

Anonymous said...

Actually the "racial profiling" was with the orginial 911 caller who thought your pairing was out of the ordinary ... the cops were just doing their job checking out the situation. Another explanation to Ty could have been, "aren't we glad the cops were concerned enough to make sure I wasn't a child molester kidnapping you." Cops seemed a bit overbearing.

ABC said...

1)I would similarly point out that the 911 call is what got the policemen to investigate. Yes, they will investigate 911 calls. Someone in the neighborhood considered you suspicious. That is a not unknown reaction to a white in a minority neighborhood.
2) Police cars driving up to another policeman interrogating someone: certainly you know by now that is commonplace.
IOW, don't put so much onus on the cops.

Scooby said...

Why do NWA songs play in my head whenever I hear about day-to-day encounters of everyday people with the police?

I grew up with Officer Friendly, but he retired and was replaced with these three freakin' stooges.

To all of you saying "they have to investigate the complaint" of racists: would it be acceptable for every black and brown person walking through my hood to get interrogated by three cops because my racist neighbor calls 911 on them?

123txpublicdefender123 said...

Yes, the 911 caller is the one who started the racial profiling. And that may give the police the right to initiate a "social contact" with the allegedly "suspicious" person. But, that absolutely does not give police the right to detain someone. There was absolutely no activity that Scott engaged in that could possibly constitute reasonable suspicion that a crime was being committed, had just been committed, or was about to be committed, which is what the law requires for an investigative detention such as what Scott was subjected to.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if a more respectful/civil reaction to the police would have actually decreased the length of time they spoke with you and decreased your granddaughters anxiety. How about "good morning officer?" or "How are you today?"
Simply informing the officer, upon initial questioning, that you are walking your granddaughter home from the park after an unexpected but enjoyable morning of babysitting. And boy my granddaughter sure does like to pet those cats down the street. Might that have gone a long way to a more civil relationship between police and community. Geez. What an uptight prick.

Matthew said...

I wonder if a more respectful/civil reaction from the police would have actually decreased the length of time they spoke with you and decreased your granddaughter's anxiety.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait for you to get the dash cams and audio through an open records request and post them...

ryanpaige said...

I find it suspicious that an African-American person lives in my neighborhood, so I call 911 on her every afternoon when she comes home from work.

Since it's a 911 call, the police investigate every afternoon and detain the woman for an extended length of time to make sure she belongs in the neighborhood.

Of course, since she co-operates with the police every day, it goes a lot faster than it would if she stood up for herself or her rights. Thankfully for her, I guess, she's not an uptight prick about that sort of pointless "investigation".

Anonymous said...

What was the report from the caller about? I don't understand how that is a complaint to respond to, a man is walking a child down the street?
Good you for, standing up to police is tough, good for you.

Do you have to give them your name? I don't understand that part of it.

dirty harry said...

In my younger years, I would have reacted to the cops the same way Grits did. As a matter of fact, my dad was a cop, and as such, the "authority figure" that they try to impress upon you never really had an effect on me. This often led to some unfriendly confrontations with police - especially ones who had a quick lip and an air of superiority.

However, age has refined a much more effective method in dealing with authority. These days, I'll give anyone my full courtesy, attention, and cooperation for about one minute. I figure that any inquiries that need to be initially addressed, can be done in that amount of time. However, after that amount of time has elapsed and nothing is being accomplished but my inconvenience, I figure it's time to force them into a decision to either get with the program, or let me continue with my life. There are polite was to do this. It just takes a little creative assertiveness.

Anonymous said...

Scott, your reaction to the police was textbook perfect, i.e., you identified youself and then remained silent. I can totally, totally understand being extremely cautious in any encounter with the police because you just don't know when you are going to encounter the lunatic cop. Might be Mr. Friendly Policeman, might be Policeman Lunatic, so you have to be cautious and guarded. Further, you've probably written hundreds of articles on police misconduct, giving you an awareness that would cause you to be textbook perfect and extremely cautious in a police encounter. It's been a few years now since I graduated law school and I am still very wary of Policeman Lunatic, especially in Williamson County, but I'll generally give them more info than I absolutely have to, especially in Travis. But, I HAVE been burned giving open, honest information to cops in Williamson County, and I just don't even bother calling them anymore. It's pointless and possibly dangerous.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

To Retired 2004, no a 911 call decidedly does NOT have to be investigated when the caller alleged no crime. White man walking down street with black child is not a crime. In fact, it was an abuse of the 911 system both for the citizen to call it in and for dispatchers to act on it - they should have ways to screen the crap out.

To 8:34, 123txpublicdefender and others, actually the police engaged in racial profiling too to the extent that they ACTED on the 911 caller's assumptions without questioning them first - is this really a crime? Are we investigating here SOLELY based on race? That's their responsibility, just like when a caller from a white neighborhood phones 911 to complain that "there's a black man walking down the street," it's the cops' job to know that's not reasonable suspicion to stop the guy.

To the person who writes, 'Another explanation to Ty could have been, "aren't we glad the cops were concerned enough to make sure I wasn't a child molester kidnapping you.'" Except I'm not "glad". I'm offended that they'd stop us based on such flimsy cause, and disgusted that the media-driven hype over "stranger danger" has skewed policing priorities to the point where three cops are sent to a Babysitting While White call while elsewhere guys with assault rifles are roaming the streets. Those misplaced priorities make me feel less safe, not thankful they stopped us.

To 9:59, Matthew, dirtyharry, etc., The police are NEVER questioning you for your own benefit in such a situation, they're doing it to find an excuse to arrest you. Many of Texas' DNA exonerees cooperated with police fully because they thought, "I'm innocent, I have nothing to hide." Bad Strategy! You have a right to remain silent and IMO you're a fool if you don't use it when cops show up to question you over felony allegations, no matter what the circumstance.

To 11:38, arguably I gave them more information than was legally required. Here's the failure to identify statute so you can read it for yourself.

Anonymous said...

Scott, just after you asked them didn't they have any real crimes to investigate, you should have reminded them that they were public servants and your tax dollars paid their salary and they should go eat a free doughnut. Then you would really have been popular! Remember, it can always get worse...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this.

I wish there were a public access TV show that would teach the public how lawfully, but minimally, to act in such a situation.

I just skimmed that "failure to identify" statute and still do not see why you even had to identify yourself because you had not been "lawfully arrested", "lawfully detained", or a person the police officer(s) had good cause to believe were a witness to a criminal offense.

Did the police commit a wrong act by investigating this 9-11 call based on nothing but racial profiling? Still would like to know that.

Seems to me the conditions for your having to give your name, residence address and date of birth were not met at all.

This may be irrelevant, but the child is not your "granddaughter" if she is your godchild's child.

I am so sick of police behavior like this. I want the public to be fully and clearly informed on how to deal with police.

As far as being the good cop there to help little children and help the citizens, that has been over with a very long time, except maybe in the lying gradeschool textbooks.

I think the mayor and all city council members are liars, cheats, and theives. Can I call 9-11 about that?







(3) requested the information from a person that the peace officer has good cause to believe is a witness to a criminal offense.

Anonymous said...

In Dallas, you both might have been pepper sprayed.

Interesting post. Although in other situations, your approach might be considered unsociable, you are always free to refuse to answer questions beyond name, rank, and serial number...so to speak.

Okay...say they have to "follow-up."
Maybe that means going to the original caller and getting further information to determine if there's reason to believe a crime was committed. In other words, I don't believe "follow up" necessarily requires pouncing on some guy walking his granddaughter down the street.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, everyday I am sadly reminded that racism is not dead in America. Add to that the "police state" we live in, the climate of fear we are fed and it is surprising you are not already on a "chain" to tdcj.
I will add a quick story: another state, I'm driving(I'm white)my friend, passenger, is black. As we exit the hiway, there is a "check point", you know, those random, what can we catch you at things. My front license plate was off. The holder was broken, had the plate in the car, hadn't fixed it. The "friendly"(white) officer began questioning my friend!! I kept interrupting, "officer, what is the problem??" He became so beligerent(steriods maybe) that he actually threatened both of us "for not cooperating"! Still not sure what we were supposed to have done, but boy was he furious at us(mostly my friend). I did report this to the state police, but never heard another thing.
We, as a country have allowed "fear" of everything and anything to give the control of our freedoms to those in "authority". We have only ourselves to blame.

SOI said...

How insane. I've never heard of that one before, but, with the current hysteria over sex offenders hiding behind every bush, it doesn't surprise me one bit.

http://sexoffenderissues.blogspot.com

Peace & God Bless!

And I hope that doesn't happen again...

Anonymous said...

Scott: If the police are not required to investigate every 911 call, only reported criminal activity, why must they respond and "inquire" on the hang-up calls?

It would be interesting to hear what is on the 911 recording.

What do you think would be reported if the cops "blew the incident off" and this was in fact a child abduction in this neighborhood (or any other neighborhood)?

Retired 2004

todd said...

C'mon Grits, why don't you stop being so outraged for a second and look at from the police perspective.

Someone called 911 about a suspicious person with a child. In this age of litigation, the police have to check it out. Imagine if that child had turned up missing? There would be a blog post railing about how the police were too lazy to just make a quick stop and investigate things. Isn't it better for all parties if the police are protecting and serving?

As for refusing to answer questions, that is your right but it is certainly unusual that a person with a child would refuse to cooperate with the police in this situation. You basically turned a quick interaction into an ordeal because you forced the police to dig deeper.

As for your tired comment about how the police should be catching "real criminals", your actions are the reason additional cops showed up. Your actions and attitude caused a red flag to go off and additional officers showed up in case things when south. That is for officer safety reasons and is perfectly reasonable.

I don't expect you to agree with me but attitudes like yours are the reason police get jaded. They were just doing their job but you use it as an opportunity to get on your usual anto-police soapbox. Continue patting yourself on the back for tying up three officers due to your huge ego and problem with authority.

Mike Howard said...

Scott,

Good for you. Identify yourself because you have to, don't answer any of their questions unless you feel absolutely comfortable doing so (here I wouldn't have either), and ask, "am i free to leave?" That's the magic question for whether you are under detention. It makes it crystal-clear. As a criminal defense attorney (PD and now private) I've seen this scenario thousands of times! We as attorneys should conduct "Know Your Rights" lectures all over Texas to inform people. I'd bet dollars to donuts that if you would've have come across as someone who knew their rights and were willing to stand up for themselves, the officers would've further trampled all over your rights.

On Track said...

Scott,
I believe you did the right thing.
Police oficers are good for the community as a whole but they should not be held less accountable when they show bad judgment.
I am hispanic with dark hair and brown eyes and my son has blonde hair and blue eyes, would that give them the reason to stop me? Do you believe it was different because your a white man and not a white woman?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Retired 2004 asks: "If the police are not required to investigate every 911 call, only reported criminal activity, why must they respond and "inquire" on the hang-up calls?"

Answer: Because of the fear the caller may have been prevented from completing the call because of intimidation or violence.

That wasn't the case here. Somebody reported a meaningless fact, not a crime, but local police needn't dispatch an officer just like they wouldn't if you called to report that you suspected your neighbor of fishing without a license because they peeked over the fence and saw some nice looking bass on the grill.

Bottom line: APD had ample opportunity to evaluate whether what they were told provided reasonable suspicion before dispatching three police cars where no crime was alleged.

Anonymous said...

Good job--of making an ass out of yourself. Any trauma the child felt was because of your unnecessary confrontational approach. Just because you have the right to respond the way you did, doesn't mean it was the smart thing to do. It's amazing how far you can get with some politeness and a good attitude. Try it.

Robert Guest said...

Scott gives a textbook example of how to deal with the police. Memorize these magic words for your next police encounter.

"Am I Free To Leave?"

We give the police complete discretion to detain, arrest, and investigate. I am embarrassed that none of these three officers quickly realized this was not a criminal situation. Instead they detain, question, detain, call for backup, detain, intimidate, and detain.

Anonymous said...

todd, you're missing the point: what was it about Grits that was 'suspicious'? In this case, only his race. This argument has been repeatedly rejected. If he had been with a white child, he likely would not have been considered 'suspicious'. And I think your comment about 'this age of litigation' is another reason NOT to racially profile, not an excuse for it.

jimbino said...

After I objected vociferously to the "Stranger Danger" propaganda on a table at one of our annual Neighborhood Night Out meetings, the cops threatened to arrest me if I didn't shut up. Here in Austin, in my own neighborhood!

I filed a formal complaint, which of course went nowhere for the "reason" that "there was no policy violation."

Having grown up on Chicago's Southside, I have long recognized the government, and especially cops, as the greatest threat to my personal liberty, way worse than lightning strikes.

Anonymous said...

Grits,

You show very important reasons that the criminal justice system needs to be completely gutted and begun again.

I understand completely where you are coming from, and the police in this case were so completely off base they should be standing in front of a review board.

They ignored your civil rights. Just the same as the police did in the 60's with people of color, or in the 80's during all of the raids and detainment of perfectly legal Spanish descendant workers.

Racial profiling or not, it was clear that there was no danger to the child. If there were danger, they would have taken the child from you on the spot.

This is the world we now live in. The police state that harasses citizens, tramples personal liberties, and trashes civil rights.

Have you filed a formal complaint yet with the APD on the incident?

The Constitution says nothing giving any government authority reason or right to detain or harass a citizen without due cause. You had not given them any.

Anonymous said...

Clasic example of the old adage "You can beat the rap, but you can't beat the ride".

You should have pulled out your phone, called 911, and reported that Austin police officers were comitting the crime of official oppression and could they please send some more cops over to arrest them.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Todd writes: "Your actions and attitude caused a red flag to go off and additional officers showed up in case things when south."

Really? I was talking to the first officer who arrived the whole time. Please explain how she communicated my "actions and attitudes" to the others? How did the second cop communicate it to the third when he never left my sight after he got there (and was surprised at third guy's arrival)? Those decisions were made at HQ independently of anything I did or didn't do.

Anonymous said...

i hate to say this, but as an African American woman, if I had seen a white man walking down the street with a black toddler, I would have called 911 as well. I would rather be thought a racist and have the incident investigated, than read the papers the next day to find out that toddler was found dead. Sorry. I guess racial profiling goes both ways. And while I recognize my position is inherently racist...i'd make that call every day. Simply because it is a child. I woudn't make that type of call under any other circumstances, but I will do anything in my power to protect a child.

Anonymous said...

There is something to be said for "go along to get along". The problem is that a lot of German Citizens are dead because the "went along" with the authority of the German Reich.

You did the right thing given the information you had. I would like to read a transcript of the 911 call. Well meaning citizens are often so scared by media hype and "Stranger Danger" type propaganda that they go off the deep end trying to do the socially responsible thing.

Because Police have so much authority, they have to be far more careful than the "Average Bear".

To suppor the Police in this situation is to support Police stupidity. Surely we want more from our public safety workers.

ryanpaige said...

"Imagine if that child had turned up missing?"

Nothing in the story the way Grits told it that says to me that they ever ascertained that the child hadn't been kidnapped.

If that was really the fear, shouldn't the police have arrested Grits until the child's parents could be found and the child returned.

And if we're really worried about the possibility of a child not belonging to the person he/she is with, shouldn't we detain everyone who is ever seen with a child?

The police frequently drive right by me when I'm with my daughter. They've yet to question my relationship with her at all. Just because people in my neighborhood tend to work outside their homes during the day and aren't home to see me walking down the street with my daughter so they can call 911, the police are off the hook?

For that matter, every single person who exits their house at any time could be wanted for something. They could be leaving the scene of a home invasion or burglary that hasn't been reported yet. Shouldn't the police, just in case, stop every single person they see at any time until it can be ascertained that the person hasn't committed a crime?

Anonymous said...

Anon at 10:26 - By calling 911 in this situation you do more to harm children than you can possibly know.

Good intentions just don't get the job done. We all want to protect children! Just be sure you're protecting a child from real rather than imagined danger.

Do you remember the story of the boy who cried wolf? Calling 911 for no good reason can put children at risk when Police have to investigate the caller before they investigate the potential for risk to a child.

Anonymous said...

Being white on the southside is suspicious where I live as well. On average I have less than one visator a month at my home. but diligent officers have in past 4 years once stopped my brother and once an employer leaving my home for being white. informing them that no white people live where indicated.
verbaly accused them of being drug dealers or users demanding to know what they were realy doing here.
maybe the police would have known who lived here if someone had shown up after I phoned the police to report I had caught a burgler red handed stealing some of my power tools.

Anonymous said...

Grits,
The second and third officers were, most likely, never dispatched to your stop - they chose to involve themselves in the incident. To those who claim it was your "fault" for failing to play nice with the cops while they investigated the incident, why would or should anyone necessarily be nice to someone who is trying to deprive you of your rights and why should one's attitude inform the actions of the officers anyway? A store short-changes me and I'm supposed to be polite at the theft? A car dealer pads a bill and I'm to be courteous to obtain my money? Sorry but I don't think so. I also find it interesting that at least one commenter thinks that invoking one's rights is grounds for "suspicion". Gee, if I don't kowtow to the police that is suspicious behavior? Interesting, but faulty, logic on their part.~~

Anonymous said...

Scott, I have mixed feelings about this. If you had been alone, I would say "Right on" with no question about it. (Of course if you had been alone, you would not have been stopped.) I don't know whether standing up for your rights was worth the trauma to your granddaughter. Maybe so, maybe it was a civics lesson for her, young as she is.

The police officers, once they got instructions from HQ, had no choice. They could have been courteous.

The sex abuse/child abuse mentality that is so prevalent is destructive to children. Be careful. Of course. But we do not need to instill xenophobia in our children.

Anonymous said...

sorry I didn't identify myself in the immediately previous post (12:21 PM). I'm Charles Kiker

Anonymous said...

Grits,
To give some background, the officers probably received their original call via an in-car computer terminal with limited information being posted by the dispatcher. The officer at this time has been focused on the shooter/school incident and just received a message regarding a child and suspicious behavior which sets up a certain mindset. In the past few days we all have been reading about some losers who were going to kill black school children and then attempt to commit suicide by trying to assassinate the president-elect. That also, I have no doubt, was, at the least, a subconscious thought driving her decision-making process. Combined, it led to your incident. After the stop, that though was thrown out the window and a new dynamic came into play - the officer confronting what they perceive is a knucklehead - to use a printable term for this forum. They (I include all three of them) were no longer concerned about any child but had reverted to handling someone who had the audacity to confront them and challenge their authority and actions. In your case, your middle class status and the presence of the child, I'm sure, helped in preventing any further violations of your rights. Video cameras have had the same effect in many cases - but not all as many a cop video has proven. This is neither condoning nor justifying their behavior but, for some of your readers, an explanation for to understand the "why" one may prevent more of the same. It's always a shame when we are more afraid of the cops than of the crooks.~~

JSN said...

In a small town the officer would have said "That is probably Scott and Ty I will drive by and see. Yup It was Scott and Ty."

Charlie O said...

Repeat after me, "The police are not your friends, the police are not your friends, the police are not your friends."

Why is it (and I have much personal experience at this), that anyone in the United States of America who exerts their constitutional rights and civil liberties is immediately branded "uncooperative" and/or suspicious by any law enforcement agent in this country. This IS a police state people. If you don't believe that, you are naive or stupid.

Bravo to you, Scott.

The Monty Blog said...

"These days, I'll give anyone my full courtesy, attention, and cooperation for about one minute. I figure that any inquiries that need to be initially addressed, can be done in that amount of time. However, after that amount of time has elapsed and nothing is being accomplished but my inconvenience, I figure it's time to force them into a decision to either get with the program, or let me continue with my life. There are polite was to do this. It just takes a little creative assertiveness.

Wasn't there, can't say who it was that was off the deep end, but the above comment quote is how I would have handled it.

If, after my minute of respectful courteous patience had run its course, I felt oppressed, then I would have clicked into the "am I free to go" mode.

After all, I don't know what the anon caller told the dispatcher, and I don't know what the dispatcher informed the officer. I don't know if the officer's statement about white man/black child is just an inarticulate summation, or if she's actually a racist.

If your demeanor was instantly oppositional, then you're unfriendly at best, and over-reactionary at worse.

If the officer's attitude was instantly bossy, confrontational, authoritarian and demanding, then she's a big jerk.

I don't know, I wasn't there, but it seems like everyone could have handled the situation better at every stage of this stupid encounter. The anon caller, the dispatcher, the officers, and you, good citizen, all bear blame for the sour taste in your mouth.

Anonymous said...

To the monty blog,

Sorry but why should a citizen bear any responsibility as to the reactions of the officers? Again, the citizen is the one being detained, in this case most probably illegally. It is a one-sided scenario that the citizen has little recourse in addressing. Your blaming the victim for getting raped, I'm afraid.~~

Don said...

The thread has pointed out why we are in danger. People who think Scott was out of line for being "confrontational" and standing up for his rights and those of his grandchild. These are the folks we should fear, or this mindset, I should say.

For the lawyers on here. I have been wondering, if upon asking "am I free to leave" and the cops says no, is the officer then illegally detaining you, provided there is is no probable cause? How long is a reasonable time, say for something like a speeding ticket? If they won't arrest you but won't let you go, do you have legal recourse? Harassment? You need only to identify with name, address, and date of birth? That info is on your DL. Is it ok for them to make you wait while they run a warrant check on your DL? What if you say something like, "if I am not under arrest, then I am leaving." And leave. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I'm laughing like hell. Karma dude, karma.

wfasonpi said...

Over the past 15 years I've been stopped and interviewed by police officers more times than I can remember due to my job. I have found that the best way way for me to avoid getting jammed up by the police is to produce ID, communicate respect, and try to establish rapport with the officer. It doesn't mean that I have to roll over, allow them to intimidate me, and spill my guts.

I think about how smoothly Obi Wan Kenobi dealt with the Imperial Stormtroopers outside Mos Eisley on the planet Tatooine. http://www.sunbelt-software.com/ihs/alex/Obiwanmindtrick_small.jpg

Most encounters with the police took less than five minutes to resolve, and fortunately I've never had to go into "Am I free to go?" mode, much less the "no more questions until I get my lawyer" mode.

Honestly, Scott, how hard would it have been simply to tell them "my granddaughter and I visited the park, now we're walking home"? I wasn't at the encounter, so I can't say whether you overreacted

Any encounter with the police I walk away from unscathed I count as a victory.

On the other hand, if the police dropped by my house uninvited, I would not open the door unless they had a warrant. If they wanted to interview me in connection with an actual crime, then I would have nothing to say. "Leave your card on the doorstep, and my lawyer will be in touch," I'd say.

I'm not saying that you overreacted, and I'm not judging how you dealt with it. I am saying that just because police stop a citizen and ask questions because something was out of the ordinary doesn't mean that we live in a police state.

Anonymous said...

I think the police were being entirely reasonable. Instead of explaining to them the relationship of your child that led to you having a black grandchild, to which they would have said, OK you can go, you chose to rachet it up a notch by refusing to answer any of their questions, in effect, making it seem as if you had abducted a child unrelated to you.

Kudos to APD for a job well done.

Glad you don't run law enforcement, Grits. Oh, and if you probably had not acted so asinine and perplike to the police, who are after all "just doing their job", your grandchild would not have been scared.

Now you have ruined this child for life with your perplike attitudes. Don't blame anyone but yourself for the harm done to the child. You did it.

Mike Howard said...

Don,

The police have to have reasonable suspicion to stop you (in a car or walking around). The "am I free to leave?" question is aimed at finding out if they are detaining you. If they are but they lack reasonable suspicion, then the detention is illegal. Practically you don't have much recourse other than to complain/file a complaint...unless a criminal charge arises out of the illegal detention. If that ends up being the case, you would seek to suppress the evidence that was the fruit of the illegal detention.

In Texas you must provide the basic identifying information that could be found on your ID/license (name, dob, address). Whether they have the right to go check your name for warrants (and make you wait in the mean time) depends on whether they have reasonable suspicion to detain you in the first place. If they don't, you should be free to leave. If they do have reasonable suspicion, then you are lawfully detained and must remain.

Stand up for your rights, but, IMO, you should also be cognizant of the fact that the police have the power in this type of situation. Scott's questions were right on...arguing with the police or berating them won't get you anywhere.

Anonymous said...

anon at 2:36,

Why should he be considered more suspicious and "perp-like" because he invokes his civil rights? Because the cop is incompetent at her job and can only determine a crime by harassing the citizen they are supposed to protect is of no fault to Scott. They also moved from concern for the crime to concern for their own authority. You know it if you work the street and I know it so bull.... someone a bit more ignorant (or powerless). Those who were asinine were the officers supposedly "serving and protecting" but in this case the only protecting was to their authority.~~

Anonymous said...

Back in law school, a favorite professor would always say: "change the facts, change the answer."

Suppose the officer traffic stopped Scott in his car because he had an african american toddler passenger?

You police authority apologists here have an answer for that?

wfasonpi said...

"Suppose the officer traffic stopped Scott in his car because he had an african american toddler passenger?"

It would be an unreasonable stop, but it still would not substantially change how I would handle the encounter.

"Hello, officer. This is my granddaughter. I have ID." If you want to complain about the behavior to the police, don't complain to and argue with the officer on the scene. Go to Internal Affairs and file a complaint.

In Scott's case, the police were responding to a call and acting on limited information, perhaps nothing more than "citizen reports suspicious white man with black toddler." The real turd in the punchbowl here was the person who made the 9-11 call. "Look, there's a white man walking down the street with a black toddler! Call the police!!" Geez what an idjit.

"You police authority apologists here have an answer for that?"

I'll ignore your ad hominem.

Doran Williams said...

Not too many years ago, an Austin police person, acting upon a similar call, stopped and detained a Travis County Court At Law judge and her husband who were driving around (in the daytime) neighborhoods looking at homes for sale. The Judge, and her husband, were black. They were guilty of Driving In White Neighborhood While Black. They didn't even have a white child in the car with them.

Really stupid move on the part of the Austin police person.

You handled it almost perfectly Scott. I probably would have told the first cop the girl was my grand- or god-child, and invited the cop to ask the child to tell them who I was. After that point, don't give'em a damn inch. Assert your rights. If they can't handle it---well, they will do what their training, intelligence and personalities dictate, anyway. You are not responsible for those kinds of things.

On Track said...

The first officer on the scene was wrong. She might as well have said "hey there white man what you doin' with that lil' black kid?"

I mean really, how rude!

You were in the right Scott. I seriously doubt you have scared that child forever, that's a little over the top- but I am sure you know that.

** Cops or not, there is no excuse for rudeness.

Anonymous said...

After reading this thread, I think of a young lady who was kidnapped and brutally murdered in Florida. The police were notified several times of behavior deemed by the callers as suspicious, but the police disregarded it as benign. (Sorry, I don't recall specifics) What if they had taken the callers more serious?
In this thread, I read a lot of black and white thinking (dichotomous, not race) when in reality there is a lot of gray. Scott, you made a choice to impress the toddler in asserting your rights. My choice would have been different (more cooperative) which I believe would have impressed the toddler with the positives of law enforcement. And, it possibly could have created a different impression in the officers about race. Your choice, IMO, only benefitted you. I certainly don't believe asserting one's rights equates confrontation. None of us were there, so we can only deem our impressions from your story, but nothing you've stated seems unreasonable on the part of the officers given the heightened security. We have no idea exactly what was said in the 911 call. Maybe your frustration should be toward the 911 caller, not the officers. Nonetheless, you certainly have the right to assert your rights. But, as I like to say, just because you can, doesn't mean you should.
Valerie Holcomb

Jason said...

First, is it your grand daughter or god daughter? I read both.

Second, if someone called them on you perhaps they thought you may have been kidnapping the child. These things do happen you know. Plus, why not just answer the question of your relationship with the child. Had some total stranger walked off with her wouldn't you be raising hell why the police didn't investigate further?

Anonymous said...

Let me clarify for you what was really happening.

It's more of an issue of "babysitting while male".

If you had been a white woman holding a black child's hand you would not have aroused suspicion.

This is the same reason why it's ok for a woman who is by herself without a child of her own to stand and watch children playing in a playground, but it's creepy when a man does the same thing.

When I see a man with a child, I pretty much involuntarily make an evaluation on whether the man is looking after the child or whether the man is a predator and the child is a victim. I evaluate whether or not this child needs my protection. I don't know if men do this but I bet other women do the same analysis in their heads. Is this man the child's friend or foe. The more you look like you are the child's father, the less likely you are in my mind a foe. This happens very quickly, but I know it happens. I expect a lot of people do the same thing whether they realize it or not. Given that you are already under suspicion just based on being male, two other things played against you. First you're white so it's less likely that you are the child's father, but you could have adopted the child, but then the second issue comes in - you are old which makes it less likely that you adopted the child (since you already have a grandchild you can't be very young). So anyone looking at you and judging whether you are friend or foe to this child will lean towards the foe category.

olnacl said...

Y'know...by saying that the police do not have to respond to a 911 call just shows your incredible ignorance of police work....it would be great if we could just blow off 911 calls that we thought might be BS but we can't.

I spend a good portion of my day responding to 911 calls that are generated by morons who can't use a fax machine properly, dial internationally properly, or kids who like to call 911 and hang up.

Your anti police bias has never been more evident than this post.

W. W Woodward said...

This time I apologize ahead of time for my attack of diarrhea of the keyboard. Feel free to ignore the following rant:

Anon: 11/06/2008 10:26:00 PM
“I can't wait for you to get the dash cams and audio through an open records request and post them...”

Probably wouldn’t do you any good. If the dash cam video hasn’t already been “lost”, the audio wasn’t recorded because of some unexplained “glitch”. That seems to be the norm these days. I can cite at least two cases (two separate Texas agencies) where this happened.

Grits: 11/07/2008 09:23:00 AM & Anon: 11/07/2008 11:35:00 AM

“Please explain how she communicated my "actions and attitudes" to the others? How did the second cop communicate it to the third when he never left my sight after he got there (and was surprised at third guy's arrival)? Those decisions were made at HQ independently of anything I did or didn't do.”

& “The second and third officers were, most likely, never dispatched to your stop - they chose to involve themselves in the incident.”

Anon, you’re probably correct. The second and third officer just dropped by to check on their “fellow” officer. The males of the “thin blue line” still haven’t accepted the fact that women police officers are capable of taking care of their own business.

Anon: 11/07/2008 10:26:00 AM

i hate to say this, but as an African American woman, if I had seen a white man walking down the street with a black toddler, I would have called 911 as well.

How about a black woman walking with a white child, or a white woman walking a black child, or a Hispanic man walking a blond child, or a …………. ? I think you get my drift. And here I thought Austin, Texas, was a hotbed of liberalism, and “All You Need is Love” and Kumba Yah. Reverse racial profiling? Austin, Texas, unfortunately is not Mayberry RFD and the attitude of large police department personnel is, again unfortunately not that of Andy Taylor.

Don: 11/07/2008 02:00:00 PM

For the lawyers on here. I have been wondering, if upon asking "am I free to leave" and the cops says no, is the officer then illegally detaining you, provided there is no probable cause?

Legally or illegally, if the answer is “no”, you’re in custody and if you walk away you will be restrained – legally or illegally. Your grandchild will become a guest of the CPS and you will be charged with some crime even if the police have to dream up something on the way to the calaboose. Don’t depend upon the dash cam to save you. The videos have a way of being “lost”, “accidentally” erased, or the audio inexplicably failing to record.

When stopped and detained by the police be courteous and calm. Identify yourself. Make no furtive movements or any other movement that could be interpreted by the officer as a threatening gesture. Slow down, don’t be too ready to reach for your left rear pocket or inside your jacket where you keep your wallet with your ID. Keep both hand in sight, Keep your hands out of your pockets. If you’re a Concealed Carry licensee be damn sure to tell the officer if you’re carrying your handgun, but don’t attempt to show it to him/her until told to do so. If an officer misinterprets your actions, your family could very well shortly be enriching the local undertaker’s pocketbook, you will be another statistic, and the officer who shoots you will probably walk away clean. Not that that will make any difference to you personally.

Understand that the police are taught in basic academies as well as during in-service training to fear you, to distrust you, to view each and every citizen as a potential criminal, to depend upon only other police officers. All police officers are paranoid. We were taught to be paranoid. Too many officers who do not exercise paranoia end up dead. During the 70’s I attended, on the average, four officer funerals per year.

Officers wake up every morning wondering who is going to lie to them today. Not, if they will be lied to. An officers straps on a firearm every day knowing that he/she just might need to use it before the duty shift is over. It’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys and the officer has to make the correct decision every time. And, the officer is stupid and rude if he/she does anything, intentionally or not, that rubs a citizen the wrong way. And, yes, if an officer is a sh**heel, his attitude and actions reflect upon his entire department.

Grits, I wasn’t standing beside you on that sidewalk when all you described went down. I can’t and won’t attempt to second guess you or the officers. My guess is that a little understanding and mutual respect on the part of everybody involved would have gone a long ways. Unfortunately, we are living in a police state. It sneaked up on us while we weren’t looking. Today’s police agencies whether local, state, or one of the Federal acronyms are the standing armies the founders of our nation warned us about. It’s another proof that one needs to be careful what he prays for as he might just get it. People who for what ever reasons decided that they couldn’t or wouldn’t take care of themselves and their own wanted protection afforded by the state. Well, folks, we have it – all the protection taxes will buy. Are we happy now?

Anonymous said...

Hey folks ... remember what was really happening yesterday morning ... gangsters home invaded up the road, sped away, crashed, one dude jumping out with an AK-47 and bullet-proof vest and bangs away at the cops ... one guy lies dead ... the rest of the agg robbers run off into the neighborhood. School go on lock down, buses turned back at the school. News reports to lock your doors and report anything suspicious to the cops ...

That doesn't justify anyone's behavior - it just paints in the forest around the trees.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Wow, this subject has garnered a lot of interest.

To those who think I should have been more cooperative, perhaps you're right. However, I made my split-second decision based almost solely on this criteria: The very first words out of the cop's mouth were that she was there to question me on suspicion of being a child molester. (She didn't say it in so many words, but it was the only possible implication.)

At that point, I don't need to wait to evaluate her demeanor to know her intent, and I certainly don't need to give her a free "minute." She told me up front all I needed to know: I'm at risk and need to protect myself. If I overreacted in that regard, at least there was no harm done and I walked away unscathed.

Cops can lie to you in interrogations or pretend to be your friend when they're setting you up. And who knows what they've been told, by whom, or whether she gave me a straight version of what the 911 caller said against me? As the Miranda warning says, anything I say can and will be used against me. Knowing that, why risk it?

Talking to cops who want to investigate you for false allegations of sex crimes has many potential negatives that simply refusing to speak to them wholly avoids. That was my thinking, anyway. It's not like I had a long time to ponder my response, and in confusing, uncertain situations, "say nothing" is usually a good short-term choice.

Anonymous said...

wfasonpi said...

Honestly, Scott, how hard would it have been simply to tell them "my granddaughter and I visited the park, now we're walking home"? I wasn't at the encounter, so I can't say whether you overreacted


This reminds me of Germany, papers please! Where are you going? Where have you been? There's no "over reacting," when you stand up for the little rights you still have in America. Everyone should sit down and read the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, after all they are the very tools that are suppose to keep the government in line.


olnacl said...

Y'know...by saying that the police do not have to respond to a 911 call just shows your incredible ignorance of police work....it would be great if we could just blow off 911 calls that we thought might be BS but we can't.

I spend a good portion of my day responding to 911 calls that are generated by morons who can't use a fax machine properly, dial internationally properly, or kids who like to call 911 and hang up.

Your anti police bias has never been more evident than this post.

I don't want to call you ignorant, specially if you're a police officer and God help us all if you really are. You need to research what the Supreme Court has ruled in the past as far as police officers having to actually respond to "911" calls. If your too damn lazy to research it let me know and I'll post their ruling on the matter.



Gritsforbreakfast said...

Wow, this subject has garnered a lot of interest.

To those who think I should have been more cooperative, perhaps you're right. However, I made my split-second decision based almost solely on this criteria: The very first words out of the cop's mouth were that she was there to question me on suspicion of being a child molester. (She didn't say it in so many words, but it was the only possible implication.)

At that point, I don't need to wait to evaluate her demeanor to know her intent, and I certainly don't need to give her a free "minute." She told me up front all I needed to know: I'm at risk and need to protect myself. If I overreacted in that regard, at least there was no harm done and I walked away unscathed.

Cops can lie to you in interrogations or pretend to be your friend when they're setting you up. And who knows what they've been told, by whom, or whether she gave me a straight version of what the 911 caller said against me? As the Miranda warning says, anything I say can and will be used against me. Knowing that, why risk it?


Yes police officers are allowed to lie to the public the Supreme Court has ruled. Don't back down so fast Scott, there's no law that says you have to be cooperative when dealing with the police or even be polite to them. How did the officers treat you when they first came on location? Was the lady cop nice to you, did she ask if you were having a nice day, ect.?

Yes in the long run if you would like to use your rights with a police officer, it might be good to also be polite and respectful to them while holding you ground. Scott of all people who worked I believe with the ACLU, probably knows that sometimes people who smart off to the cops sometimes will get their ass beat or even wind up dead in the woods. The police are the most dangerous gang in America.

Anonymous said...

Scott, you went on the defense appropriately. It was the polices responsibility to determine whether you were a molester/kidnapper or not. From what you described, the first officer did not. Did she ask you the name of the child's parent, where the parent worked or try to contact that parent. If not, that police officer doesn't know today that you did not kidnap that child.
By coming across the way she did from the very begining set the tone of the interview and yes you were right to be ready to defend yourself.
The officer needs to go back to some training as to how to question a suspected pedofile as to determine quickly the status of the child and then move on it or let it go.

Anonymous said...

What the hell! You gave me diet coke? I wanted regular coke. Stop oppressing me. I'm being oppressed.

Anonymous said...

"Cops can lie to you in interrogations or pretend to be your friend when they're setting you up." Texas Rangers can do that, too.

Sounds like you beat the rap AND the ride!

Anonymous said...

There's a difference between "having the right" to do something and it "being right" to do so.

GFB, you had the absolute right to act as you did. But don't ask others to shed a tear for your inconvenience. Your encounter could've been resolved in 30 seconds -- heck, the officer might've even apologized! -- but you'll never know.

Sometimes, a question is just a question.

Anonymous said...

I can't talk right now. I'm too busy being outraged over how an officer can't read minds! how dare they try to investigate something!

Grits, this was the most self-serving post you've ever written.

Anonymous said...

Lots of interesting comments and opinions, makes for good reading.
The bottom line seems to be the ever thinner line of our Constitutional rights and the powers of those who have "authority". I do not believe we have quietly slipped into a police state. The Constitution and more specifically, the Bill of Rights, has been publicly torn to shreds over the past decade. Most of America has been too busy watching reality tv or shopping at the mall to pay much attention. It is now deemed unpatriotic to demand your civil rights be adhered to. The current admin(he also formed TX law before that)can't even pronouce Constitution, much less follow it. We pretty much laid down our rights with the very illegal Patriot Act. Police and law enforcement nationwide are now taught to ignore the Constitutional Amendments that protect illegal search and siezure, racial profiling, innocent before found guilty etc. We are responsible for their poor policy. "Fear is the basis for most government"(John Adams) We have allowed percieved fear of so many groups to dictate our rights: a man walking with happy child, in broad daylight is cause for paraniod reaction by a citizen and three law enforcement officers. This is a sad state of affairs. Said man had every right to feel that he was being targeted for no apparent cause.
Every single American citizen should be required to read the Bill of Rights(at the very least) before they are allowed to get their next credit card, cell phone, ipod or blackberry

Gritsforbreakfast said...

7:09 - I said in the first sentence the post was "self indulgent." Whaddya want besides that admission?

As for officers reading minds, they don't need that particular skill; they only need to understand that they can't detain people when they don't have reasonable suspicion.

The textbook definition of racial profiling in Texas is "A law enforcement initiated action based on an individual’s race, ethnicity, or national origin rather than on the individual’s behavior or on information identifying the individual as having engaged in criminal activity." That's exactly what happened here.

To 8:46: I didn't just refuse to answer because I "have the right" to do so and felt like spuriously exercising it, I refused because somebody (who I know nothing about) had told police I was a potential child molester and I don't answer questions in a felony criminal investigation without a lawyer present - nobody should.

When police interrogate you, a question is not just a question. Police interrogation is a guilt-presumptive process.

JSN said...

When Thomas B. Reed (who later became Boss Reed Speaker of the House) was an officer in the Union Navy during the Civil War he learned all of the rules and regulations. He said "That meant I had my rights and the other persons rights as well." By the way he did the same thing when he was on the rules committee in the House of Representatives.

Unless you know the rules the police have their rights and yours as well. In the vast majority of the citizen police contacts the citizen does not know the rules and the police officer has the advantage.

The thing that was so dumb about this incident is that if a person is engaged in a kidnapping they don't walk on a public sidewalk holding the victims hand.

Anonymous said...

After reading this thread I am reminded of a picture that was posted in our briefing room in the 70's. The picture depicted a peace officer and the caption was: "The next time you need help ask the police officer you called PIG". That puts it in perspective.

Retired 2004

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Retired, when have I ever called anybody a "pig"? I actually delete those comments off Grits when I see them. That's a cheap shot.

wfasonpi said...

>This reminds me of Germany, papers please! Where are you going? Where have you been?

It's funny that you'd bring it up. I lived in Germany 20 years ago and yes I did get stopped by the police who requested identification. I was walking near the border with Holland when the cops rolled up next to me. "Ihr Ausweis, bitte." ("Your ID, please.") I gave my passport to the men-in-green who ran it through their on-board computer. It took all of 20 seconds and I was on my way.

I certainly didn't feel as if my rights had been violated. ("Help, help! I'm bein' repressed!") http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o76WQzVJ434

Five years later I lived in one of the tiny enclaves within Houston that is technically its own town with its own police force. One night I drove home and parked outside my house, turned off the engine, and sat there listening to the radio for a few minutes. Three minutes later an officer was behind me with his lights on and flashlight in my face. Once he saw my DL and understood that I was a resident of the town, that was the end of it. He saw someone sitting in a parked car after dark in a neighborhood that was in his beat, so he stopped and checked it out. I was cooperative and actually thanked him for being alert.

Had he tried to intimidate me, now that would have been a different story. "You don't mind if I search your car" would have been met with a cold stare and "I do not consent to a search. This interview is over until my attorney arrives. Am I free to go?"

I don't have a problem with a police officer who is simply checking out the unusual. On the other hand, if it's clear that he or she is interviewing me as part of a felony investigation in which I am the suspect, then I'll lawyer up just as Scott did.

My goal is to live free in an unfree world.

Bill Tuttle said...

Sounds like the cops were being complete asshats. Not that unusual these days, unfortunately. They started off full of attitude and failed to do anything as far as actually determining what was going on. I so often hear cops complaining about the "us vs them" attitude when more often than not I see it from their side. They look down on mere "civilians" - when of course, they are nothing but civilians themselves.

Anonymous said...

Who called cops "pigs"? Please reference it.

This is a common tactic. Paint a person asserting something as a bomb-throwing anarchist, try to tie them to "teh terror", or a black church, or whatever.

I doubt you'll find a more law-abiding citizen than Mr. Grits. Those proclaiming that asserting one's rights means that one should be singled out are the very people who are destroying this country.

The racial element is disturbing, given that this is Texas. But, well, you know not what you don't know , I guess.I'm not justifying it, and I'm glad you make an example for your ward. I'm just ssying it isn't surprising.

Anonymous said...

You are way off on this one grits.

Cops have one of the most thankless jobs out there. Those officers simply responded to a call. They asked questions merely to clear the call and cover their a@@.

Lets pretend the allegation made by the caller was accurate and the child was in danger. Lets pretend those cops arrived on the scene only to ask a few questions and then send you on your way. Those officers would have been reprimanded and society would be in an uproar!!

Anonymous said...

You were very lucky that you weren't arrested for "contempt of cop". In many jurisdictions would have been. I myself was arrested in Smith County for "contempt of the District Attorney". If you don't know that is a 3rd degree felony in Smith County.

My wife suffered from a mental illness and while in a desusional state killed my 2 year old son. The police seized 2 computers from my home. I work out of my home and these computers were used for work and had no evidence. I was told it would be at least 4 months before they would even be examined. I found that to be an unreasonable seizure. I went to the DA's office to ask for some help getting them back in a more reasonable time frame. I was standing in the office waiting on an investigator I had been talking with to return when the DA's office door opened. I asked him abuot the computers and he told me to shut my mouth. At that rude response I lost my temper and called him a couple of names. As I was heading out the door I was tackled by the investigator I had been waiting on. The next thing I knew I was face down on the floor under a pile of several investigators and officers. I asked what the charge was and was told...these are th investigator's exact words: "Cussing in front of women, Son of a bitch (that's what I called the DA), disorderly conduct.

I later learned that I was charged with Assault on a Public Servant, Criminal Trespass and Resisting Arrest. I was placed in a jail cell by myself. This was only about a week after I had buried my son. I was kept in solitary confinement and they would not even give me a book to read. All I could do was sit and think about my son and it was driving me crazy. Normally prisoners see the JP in the jail for their bail to be set. At8:00 am the morning after my arrest I was taken to Judge Jack Skeen, Jrs. courtroom. Jack Skeen used to be the DA and it has been said that he still runs the DA's office. He is not so much a judge as a rubber stamp for the DA's office. It was no coincidence that I was taken to him to have my bail set instead of it being set by the JP. My bond was set at $180,000. I had never been arrested before, own a business and house and there is absolutely no reason for my bond to have been that high. The reason it was that high was becaue the DA's office wanted me kept in jail and Judge Skeen does whatever the DA's office wants.

I tried to wait for a bond reduction hearing but after 5 days I couldn't stand it any more and borrowed the money to bond out. I was kept in solitary confinement for 5 days. I finally got a book to read about an hour before I bonded out. For 5 days I had nothing to do but sit and think about my son's death. It was driving me crazy. I'm sure I was treated that way at the instruction of the district attorney.

The investigator submitted a false affidavit which I believe equals perjury. The lead assistant DA also submitted a false statement. The DA himself was smart enough not to perjur himself but he did deliberately lie to the press about what happened.

I had a witness who contradicted what the people in the DA's office said and backed up my story but she did not see was in the lobby and I was tackled coming out the door into the lobby. My attorney said they would just say it happened inside the office where she couldn't see. This witness also had a criminal record and a Smith County jury probably would have believed the investigator and DA over her.

I was told by 2 different attorneys that I would not get a fair trial in Judge Skeen's court. I knew that members of the DA's office were willing to lie to convict me. I hired an attorney that they were afraid of and they agreed to drop the felony to a misdemeanor and offered deferred adjudication. I plead guilty to something I didn't do because I feared it was very likely I would go to prison for something I didn't do it the case went to trial, especially in Smith County.
My guilty plea was lie and was one of the hardest things I've ever done. After losing my family I couldn't stand the strain of going through a trial I was probably goind to lose. Now, I'm on probation and stuck with a criminal records just for calling the DA a couple of names.

Scott, you were lucky. If you had been in Smith County you would probably be in jail now, whether you broke any laws or not. They would have just made something up like they did on me.

Anonymous said...

By the way, I only got the computers back a couple of weeks ago. The police held my property, which was not evidence for 1 year and 4 months. I only got it back because I wrote letters to the judge, attorney general, police chief, mayor, city manager and city attorney.

We really don't have any constitutional rights any more, at least not in Smith County.

straightarrow said...

Something similar happened to me once in Plano,Tx., though I was alone at the time. The cop was not in uniform, was very rude, and didn't identify himself as a cop. For the first minute or two I thought he was from out of town and was trying to locate someone who lived in the complex. The more tolerant I was of him the more abusive he became of me. I finally started to walk away, at that point he said "I'm a cop."

I said "I don't know about that but you're certainly a rude (questionable marital status of his parents)." Before it was all over, I had his gun and a late arriving officer and himself unarmed. This was nearly 40 years ago and because the one officer realized what an absolute jackass the first cop was, I didn't hurt them. I even gave back the gun, on the promise that the cop #2 would not return it to cop #1 while I was still in line of sight.

The biggest change I see in policing since, is today I would not dare take that chance and would have nothing to lose by killing them both.

And I haven't changed, they did. They wanted this endemic fear of themselves, now they have it. Respect is never to be confused with fear. Respect won't get you killed if you earned it. Fear will.

Seperate the wheat from the Chaff said...

Look I have been the officer on these types of calls and I have also been the subject of these types of calls. I am a white man, who is married to a Mexican American (by which I mean an American citizen with a Mexican heritage).

I have been stopped by the police because someone called me in for being suspicious. I mean my children don't exactly look like Anglo Saxons. Honestly this was not the fault of the police, it was the fault of the caller. I calmly explained that this was my daughter and was mildly irritated at the CALLER. This is not the fault of the police. So I was polite, and I identified myself and answered a few questions without being a smart ass. I was detained for a few minutes at most.

I used to police a small town where any person that was not from that town that happen to be on foot was called in for being a "suspicious person." When I receive a call from a concerned citizen it is my duty to investigate the situation. It may be a crime, it may not be but a citizen reported it. Hey the caller may have made the report based on racial ignorance or ignorance in general.

Lets be honest, don't ignorant people pay taxes too?

So I have had to explain to people that I received a call that they were acting "suspiciously" and that I was just there to alleviate a fear in someones mind and that I would take up as little of their time as possible.

Honestly, you could have handled the situation better Scott. You seem to be an intelligent man and your ill treatment of the police betrays an emotional immaturity just the same as the person that called you in. Shame on you.

Anonymous said...

Scott the police are not your friends or not friends to anyone. Hey Scott if you are ever beaten up, robbed, or otherwise victimized I encourage you to never call the police because they are so evil...

I especially like the "stop snitchen'" campaign. This is great. In bad communities people won't tattle on criminals so they can operate, kill, and rape with impunity there. Good communities will call the police and testify against criminals.

That way criminals will kill each other in bad communities and will be locked up when they commit crimes in good communities!

Don't be a snitch Scott! The police hate you!

Anonymous said...

Qote: "Hey Scott if you are ever beaten up, robbed, or otherwise victimized I encourage you to never call the police because they are so evil..."

Who do you call when you get beat up by the police?

Anonymous said...

i believe you were able to respond the way you did because you are white.
your response raised their suspicions or simple pissed them off, thereby increasing the time you had to spend there waiting

Anonymous said...

Scott: I have never heard or read that you called a cop a "Pig". My point of the post is that most people don't like cops unless they need help ASAP. When checking out a suspicious person call, enforcing speed limits, or evicting someone, the police are not thought of in a positive light (as in your case). But when they are being held against their will by people with guns or knives these same folks just love to see the cops (calvery) arrive! And after the felons are in cuffs the cops have to protect them from the victims who suddenly want the cops to forget all about the violators rights. Go figure.

Retired 2004

Anonymous said...

Scott, I would strongly encourage you to instigate a FOIA request for the 911 recording of the call.

A few years ago I was stopped while walking a few blocks to the convenience store for a pack of smokes. What I did to attract the officer's attention was 1)being out after dark; and 2)lighting a half-smoked cigarette and thereby giving the appearance of lighting a crackpipe, apparently.

The cop was dogging me, he kept passing me by and u-turning again and again. As soon as I lit the butt he squeeled his tires, jumped the curb and blocked my path and blinded me with his spotlight and initiated a felony stop; stood behind his car door with his gun drawn, ordered me to place my hands on top of my head, turn away and kneel on the pavement. He handcuffed, searched and interogated me.

After being satisfied that I was not up to no-good he released me. I asked him why he stopped me in such a way and he said they got a call of a suspicious person.

After relating the incident to a police officer friend he told me they routinely use the "911 call" as the probable cause excuse.

I wouldn't be suprised if there was no such call in your case.

Anonymous said...

What I find especially frightening is that none of the cops seemed to comprehend that what they were doing was very wrong. Imagine what could happen if the person they were questioning did not have your civil rights background.

And of course, it's also terrifying that they (predictably) tried to use the event as an excuse to dominate and intimidate.

Wishing Ty a future with a better and smaller police force.

Extremely disappointed at the comments telling you to be more polite to the police officers - it's my belief that these comments are made mostly by those in law enforcement.

We are lost when perceived impoliteness means our civil rights can be gratuitously violated.

Anonymous said...

Regarding suggestions to call 911 and report police misconduct:

FEMA Director of Operations for Galveston Jaime Forero called to report police brutality that he witnessed while the Galveston Police force was beating members of a wedding party at a reception.

Forero was arrested for "interfering with a police officer" or some such thing, and "processed" through an all night stay in jail.

Now Galveston County has only received 50 FEMA trailers - while Orange County has 300. Does anyone but me see the connection? If I were in FEMA I'd be doing everything I could to get the disadvantaged out of Galveston and prevent Federal money from going there.

Anonymous said...

I should have mentioned the above arrest of FEMA Director of Operations by Galveston Police officers occurred one month after Hurricane Ike.

Robert said...

Anyone who trades liberty for security will have neither.

jbuffalo said...

I read your article and I thought back to my home daycare in Garland, Texas, where I had a child die from SIDS. I cared for children of all color, including children from mixed families. I've wondered more than once about it.
jackiebuffalo.com

Deb said...

"... you certainly have the right to assert your rights. But...just because you can, doesn't mean you should."

Ignore (don't use) your rights and they'll go away.


"The thing that was so dumb about this incident is that if a person is engaged in a kidnapping they don't walk on a public sidewalk holding the victims hand."

And the victim isn't willingly holding the kidnapper's finger...and smiling and laughing and doing all the tell-tale things kids do when they are just fine.

I.E. She shouldn't have ever even stopped to question him based on the visual check that all was okay, much less 911 dispatch anyone based on skin color.

Anonymous said...

Grits -- Did it occur to you that the the basis of the suspicion that prompted the 911 call was nothing more than the fact that a white adult was with a black toddler? Not because an adult who is white, walking with a toddler who is black is suspicious because of __ blank__ (something other than a difference in race)?

You should get a copy of the 911 tape - if so, police had even less reason to detain you, right?

Deb said...

To Anonymous, 11/7 6:07 am--

To answer your question about conditions being met for lawful detention: you are correct, it was not lawful--they didn't not have reasonable suspicion, but that becomes a matter of interpretation on the scene--not something you want to argue if you're attempting to plead the 5th (they WANT you to argue with them to provide a basis for "resist" charges, etc).

As far as your comment:

"This may be irrelevant, but the child is not your "granddaughter" if she is your godchild's child."

Not only is it irrelevant, it's not your business what other people call their family members. If Ty calls him "grandpa" who are you to correct her?

joelr said...

jsn has it right -- assuming a good, service-oriented small town cop (there are such) and a fairly small number of white geezer-Americans with AA grandkids.

Just to chime in, a bit late, with maybe a different perspective... while I'm not now and have never been a member of the -- err, a cop, I do have some sympathy for cops who do a good, service-oriented job, even when, in good faith, they get some stuff wrong.

Which is where the problem starts here. The cop doesn't get to decide who calls 911, nor what he or she is dispatched to check out, after all.

Sure; the system should sort stuff out before it gets to her. She doesn't get to wait until the whole system gets better before she rolls on a call.

So, the challenge for the good, service-oriented cop is to check things out without violating anybody's rights, without unnecessarily scaring a little kid (who probably just has an elderly babysitter of a different race, and that's not exactly unknown) or, for that matter, unnecessarily irritating the elderly babysitter. ("When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras." Part of a cop's job is to check the horses and make sure that they're not zebras.)

After all, while stranger abductions are rare, they're zebras, not unicorns.

And that's where the cop screwed up.

The very first words out of the cop's mouth were that she was there to question me on suspicion of being a child molester. (She didn't say it in so many words, but it was the only possible implication.)

Now, granted, that's what she was there to do; she wasn't there to investigate the possibility of babysitting while white suddenly having become a crime.

But -- as you point out -- cops can lie, and lies can be social (and professional) lubricants.
A retired cop of my acquaintance is fairly famous locally for, "Start soft; it gives you somewhere to go."

If she'd started with an apology for bothering you -- interrupted by an observation as to how cute Ty was "G'morning, sir; my name's Jennifer, and -- wow, what a cute little girl; her smile reminds me of my niece!" -- you might well have decided to play nice. It's entirely possible that with a non-threatening adult approaching, a kid might let the cat out of the bag ("Grandpa's taking me to pet the cats again today!") that there's no problem.

(Odds are pretty good, in fact, that a protective grandparent is going to play nice in that sort of situation, for fear of scaring the granddaughter.)

Hell, it might even have been educational for a criminal defense attorney to find out that a cop could, possibly, perform a legally questionable stop without frightening a little girl, and maybe even making a friend of her.

(I know that latter can happen, because I've watched it done.)

Anonymous said...

I've worked as a police dispatcher and while most departments will check out most 911 calls, the level of response in my experience always matches the level of credibility the officer gives the call. As a fairly comparable example- after 9/11 we received calls every once in a while along the lines of "I'm in a bar and there are two guys here speaking in a foreign language." No crime, no activity other than not speaking English. The officers' response was invariably to pull into the bar, walk through to make sure nothing was happening and go on their merry way without contacting anyone. For three cruisers to pull up and detain you because you happened to be walking down a public street in full view with a not-kicking-and-screaming-child who was clearly comfortable with you is ludicrous.

Anonymous said...

Grits -
I read the failure to identity, is that just if you are arrested? I'm a customer service rep and in no way involved with the legal system but it said lawfully arrested so I'm confused. :) If a cop stops you and you when you are walking and you don't give them your name can you be arrested? I thought we didn't have to give out information unless we were arrested.

Soronel Haetir said...

Anonymous,

SCOTUS ruled in Hibiil v Nevada that a state can make and enforce failure to identify laws upon articulatable suspicion. While the Texas statute quoted earlier doesn't seem to encompass all the behavior that the court ruled could be grounds, their standard is low enough that it's probably better to identify yourself upon demand by an officer. Prior to Hibiil there was no duty to answer any question posed by an officer.

FleaStiff said...

Well, we all have our racial prejudices. I would probably be more likely to support the questioning if it were a Negro in the company of a White child.

It used to be that if a Black man was talking to a White woman and he had a cap on his head instead of in his hand, a cop would stop for sure. Or if a Black was driving a White female was sitting up front rather than in the back.

With our high level of crime I don't think police can afford to waste resources though.

KnowYourRights said...

It seems likely that there was no valid reason for detaining Scott, and even less for the arrival of reinforcements, other than the informal police policy of reacting to a person who knows their rights with an overwhelming show of force to back up police authoritah, possibly with hopes of escalating the situation to the point where further police action would be justified.

It also seems that the informal policy is to classify anyone who asks, "Am I free to go?" as uncooperative and suspicious. After all, if you're not doing anything wrong, what's your rush to get along with your life?

Warning: If the government finds out that you clicked on the link below, you could be classified as potentially uncooperative.

The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters -- it's critical to know your rights.

Anonymous said...

Know-
That was a great video! I didn't write it down but he made a great point at the end about it not being natural to stand up especially in an emotional state. It is very difficult to stand up for yourself, they do not back down for a while, that dynamic isn't something most people are used to dealing with.
I watched the one about Washington DC, God bless them!

Allypsa said...

The suspicion was based on your gender, not your race.

RobertB said...

100+ comments down the page is a tough place to add useful content, but I just ran across this entry from the Daddy Types blog: If You See Something, Say Something. In 2007, the state of Virginia ran billboards showing a man holding a child's hand, and the tagline "It doesn't feel right when I see them together". The blogger, who like most dads holds his children's hands all the time, sees this as an egregious case of guilt by association.

The blog post references a Wall Street Journal article, Are We Teaching Our Kids To Be Fearful of Men?, that quotes John Walsh ("America's Most Wanted") as comparing men with dangerous dogs -- you shouldn't let a child near either one. I honestly sympathize with Walsh, and his unspeakable anguish over the loss of his son. But his pain is no excuse for taking away my childrens' innocence and replacing it with fear.

That said, I tend towards cooperation instead of confrontation. I appreciate the stand you took, though, and I will keep those hard-earned lessons in mind.

Anonymous said...

When I was little my dog got hit by I car. Not knowing any better I ran to his aid. He clamped onto my arm and my dad had to pry him off.

The lesson is that injured dogs are dangerous. John Walsh is an injured dog.

Anonymous said...

Know-
I put my driver's license, tag registration and insurance card in a small wallet under the dashboard. I cleared everything else out. I will be keeping my purse, children's backpacks and shopping bags in the trunk!

pn6.at.reddit.com said...

While I agree with your outrage, I think you've missed an important point here:You were also babysitting while **male** which is much more dangerous than being white.

Every body knows, of course, that males are the only species of committing kidnapping, murder, rape, or violence of any sort.

http://boysite.info/blog/?p=7

Another Austin Dad said...

I had a similar experience at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Expo. At that time, I had a four year old black foster daughter. I had her and two of my own kids with me that day.

By the end of the day my foster daughter was tired of walking and stressed over missing her mother. She was crying and saying "I want my mommy!" over and over. In the parking area, another family nervously inquired if she was alright. I said that she would be okay, that she just missed her mother.

After buckling up the kiddos and following the guidance of the parking helpers, I was directed to the side, where I was questioned by a DPS officer. He uncomfortably explained that he had "received a call" and so he just had to "check things out." I told him she was my foster daughter and that yes she is sad and misses her mother.

That seemed to satisfy him, and he made some conciliatory comment about having to make the inquiry. I said "Well, sure, I mean we don't exactly match." He got a very startled look on his face when I said that and quickly waved me on to leave.

It would seem that stopping a man with a child that might not be his is a perfectly acceptable imposition, but stopping someone on a racial basis was a dangerous thing for him to admit to. It's okay to assume that a man is dangerous to children on the basis of his gender, but it isn't okay to pull somebody over on the basis of race. We have a prejudice in this country, a prejudice that dare not speak its name, and it is called misandry.

Jeff Deutsch said...

Hello,

I think Scott's response was a good one. At least as far as I can tell from his post, he stood up for his rights while not obstructing the police's legitimate purposes.

We just can't stop and aggressively question, much less hold, anyone who might be committing a crime (no, not even kidnapping a child); trying that leads straight to the police state.

I don't think Scott's was the only correct response, and I know standing up to the police officers who violate people's rights or even just common courtesy isn't everyone's cup of tea. I especially appreciate wfasonpi's balanced approach.

As I've posted, some people are just too darned quick to call the cops. And some other people are just too darned quick to give any possible suspicion - except of course the suspicion of police misconduct or of harassment by 911 call - the benefit of every doubt.

There's some debate on the amount of discretion police have - or should have - regarding their response to a plainly groundless 911 call. (I'm not talking about mistaken international or fax calls or hang-up calls, but rather calls from people who call just to say they feel suspicious about someone but can't give any specific information about why.)

In that regard, I liked the anonymous (11/10; 17:57) police dispatcher's comment. Maybe the police have to respond to plain old ethnic bigotry, but they don't even have to contact anyone if they don't see anything wrong.

Scott, keep up the good work!

Jeff Deutsch

PS: Hat tip to Jamie Spencer for pointing me here.

tolbertme said...

Interesting story, thanks for sharing!

Reno said...

Hey I just saw this story about Bob Dylan being questioned by police and I remembered this thread.

Anonymous said...

It was responded to by the first officer on the bike path. I guess if you respond with one car and determine no crime has been commited then the next logical step is to respond with 9.

David (The Pants) said...

Dunno if this's been said, but had you simply said that she was your granddaughter, you'd've probably been able to go sooner without much trouble. You should have answered not because you legally didn't have to, but because it would've fixed everything up. But yes the APD did waste their time. You were in the right.

Ms. said...

I think you did exactly the right thing. The police werein the wrong.
They could have simply driven by & seen you walking down the street, doing nothing wrong, and kept on going.
Instead, they decided to waste more time & resources... simply because you exercised your rights. The peaceful exercise of protected civil rights can never be RAS of a crime.
The sooner the police get back to respecting citizens & protecting their rights, the less effort they'll waste being officious & overbearing by bothering good citizens who aren't doing anything wrong.