Monday, February 22, 2021

Plano police do best 'Cartman' impersonation arresting black kid for walking home in the snow

If you needed another example why the Texas Legislature should forbid police from arresting people for Class C misdemeanors, here's yet another poster-child case for the history books.

Rodney Reese, an 18-year old black man living in Plano, was walking home from his job at the Walmart during the Snowpocalypse when police officers stopped him ostensibly for a "wellness check." Carrying a plastic bag, underdressed for the cold in a short-sleeve shirt, he told them he didn't want their help and was on his way home. But the cops wouldn't take "no" for an answer and soon told him he was under investigation and being formally detained, eventually arresting him for "pedestrian in a roadway." To their credit, the Plano PD quickly posted the dashcam video. You can watch the video here.

A couple of things stand out. First, despite the police chief saying he didn't believe race was a factor, it's virtually impossible to imagine Plano cops treating a white 18-year old boy in a similar fashion, or for that matter that any Plano resident would have called the cops in the first place if the boy were white. That's just the truth. The chief said he can't know what's in officers' hearts, but their actions revealed more than words could convey short of calling him the N-word. They weren't treating him like a citizen whose wellbeing they cared about - the ostensible purpose of a "wellness check." He was there to play a role, in their minds, and was punished for refusing to go along with the charade.

Second, there was no public-safety justification for what happened. Reese told them he was going home and was under no obligation to talk to police. (One has a "right to remain silent," after all.) He'd done nothing wrong and his incentive to keep moving and not stop in his under-dressed state was obvious; there was nothing suspicious about his behavior. He was arrested because he chose to exercise his rights.

That element reminded me of the episode in Keller, TX with Dillon Puente and his father. There, the cop got upset because Puente said he was afraid of him, citing images of police brutality on television. Rather than try to understand where the kid was coming from, the cop considered his reticence to interact suspicious and ended up arresting him for making a wide right turn. (In that case, officers also pepper sprayed and arrested Puente's father who was shooting video of the episode.)

Watching the video from Plano, the male cop escalated the situation unnecessarily. The woman initially approached Reese used a lighter touch, but should have taken "no" for an answer. The male cop, however, exhibited what can only be described as a bout of toxic masculinity, tinged with racial animus. This black boy challenged his authority by ignoring him, and that the cop couldn't abide. It was like watching the character Cartman from Southpark insisting "You will respect my authority!" Same energy, as the kids say.

There likely was nothing this kid could have done to avoid this outcome. The cops weren't sent there to investigate a crime, but invoked their investigative powers the moment he failed to show maximal deference and detained him for no good reason. He was 100% right not to want to engage with them.

Mr. Reese was charged with being a pedestrian in the roadway - a Class C misdemeanor - and hauled off to jail. The maximum penalty for that offense is only a $500 fine, so the arrest punished him to a greater extent than the maximum a jury could have imposed following a guilty verdict.

On Facebook we're told, "The arresting Officer noted in the arrest report that although the subject committed the Class B misdemeanor offense of Interference with Public Duties by resisting Officers efforts to detain and handcuff him, the Officers elected to only charge him with Pedestrian in the Roadway, a Class C misdemeanor." This tells you all you need to know about the officer's mentality, framing it as though he was doing the guy a favor. What "duty" was he performing that Mr. Reese interfered with? Checking on the boy's wellbeing. But the kid already told him he was fine and on his way home. In truth, the officer was violating his duty to respect the lad's rights.

Finally, I should add that the Plano Police Chief, who himself is black, to his credit, immediately ordered charges dropped against the kid and said the arrest should never have been made. And he deserves a lot of credit for releasing bodycam video footage so quickly, that's exemplary police management behavior rarely seen in Texas' larger jurisdictions. But his comments absolving the officers of racial motivations rang hollow: It's not credible to imagine white kids in Plano get treated that way. If they were, likely arrests for Class C misdemeanors would have been forbidden a long time ago.

Thanks to data collected under the 2017 Sandra Bland Act, we now know that 64,100 people were arrested for Class C misdemeanors at Texas traffic stops in 2019, and untold more were arrested on the street for Class Cs, like Mr. Reese. Every one of those arrests was an abuse of police power just as much as this was. It has to stop.

7 comments:

Phelps said...

First, despite the police chief saying he didn't believe race was a factor, it's virtually impossible to imagine Plano cops treating a white 18-year old boy in a similar fashion

You've obviously never been to Plano.

Anonymous said...

For all that trouble they could have offered him a ride home...

Gary said...

Having watched the video I fail to see how the arrest can be justified. Looked like false imprisonment to me.

Wonder if this will be a 5 or 6 digit settlement. Definitely he'll get paid.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

They did offer at first, 5:23. He told them he didn't need their help. That should have been the end of it. Despite what Phelps said, if he were white, it almost certainly would have been.

Sergeant Pepper said...

How dare that criminal walk all over that white snow!

TheLawEnforcementProject said...

Well, after the settlement he likely will not need that Walmart job anymore

Anonymous said...

I lived in Plano for 15 years and they would not have done that to a white kid.