Friday, August 27, 2010

Allegations of Racial Profiling surface in Junction City Kansas

Yesterday, we received a racial profiling complaint from a woman named Andrea Hall. Mrs. Hall is the wife of a deployed soldier who was driving her car in the Junction City area when she was pulled over by an Officer for speeding. Mrs. Jones has provided the details of the incident in writing and has requested that we make it public.

While sitting at the traffic light of the Grant Avenue and Washington Road intersection, I, Andrea S. Hall, heard a loud thumping on my trunk. Looking out of the rear-view mirror, I noticed a police officer proceeding towards my driver-side door. Disturbed and perplexed by this, I lowered my window, as the officer furiously yelled, “When we get through this traffic light, I want you to PULL OVER into that parking lot (pointing at the parking lot of a liquor store adjacent to the traffic light)!!!” Despite my apprehensiveness of his demeanor and tone, I managed to say, “Ok.”

After arriving and parking in the aforementioned parking lot, the officer came back to my driver’s side window, just as irate as before, yelling, “Is there any reason why you’re speeding?!!”. I replied, “Well, I was sitting at the traffic light so…” Interrupting, the officer said, “Just give me your license and registration.” I nervously fumbled for the requested items, wondering why this officer was so upset. Once I handed him the items, he returned to the patrol truck and he and another officer (who was also in the same patrol truck) interacted for about 6 to 7 minutes. At this point, the other officer came to my car to serve me the traffic citation, asking me to sign it. Noticing that they had written a heavy “N” on the citation, in order to indicate my ethnicity, I said, “What’s this?” Completely disregarding my question, the officer said, “Just sign it. It doesn’t mean that you did it or not.” I scribbled over the entire signature area, now upset and offended by their conduct, but not wanting to get into a debate with the officer. I waited for him to tear the ticket, and then I pulled off.

I called the Junction City Municipal Court and when the clerk answered the phone, I said, “What is the protocol for indicating race and ethnicity, here, in Junction City because when I was stopped by a couple of your officers they’ve written a heavy “N” on the citation for my ethnicity.” Ironically, this clerk also seemed irritated, as she rudely responded, “M’am, we use “N” for Non-Hispanic and “H” for Hispanic. Are you Hispanic?” I said, “Well, no, but if that is all Junction City can see, Hispanic and Non-Hispanic, that’s racial profiling in itself. How would he have really known that anyway? That makes no sense, and I don’t believe that you guys only have two abbreviations to use for race.” She said, “Well, it is M’am, have a nice day.” She then hung up the phone.

At that time, I resolved that I would simply go to court and speak with the judge about the matter. So, on Tuesday, August 10, 2010, I went to the Junction City Municipal Courthouse. I called attorney Steve Rosel (who since then, has committed to supporting me with this case), along the way, discerning that I would need some legal advice and support. Once I arrived to the clerk’s desk, she asked me if I just wanted to pay the ticket. I told her that I was actually there to speak with the judge about the citation, due to the officer’s misconduct. I then showed her the ticket through the glass window, asking her to look closely at what the officer had written for my ethnicity. The clerk said, “What’s the problem?” I then explained to her that I did not believe that Junction City would find it acceptable to use the letter “N” for an African-American’s race. I then said as a matter of fact, I want to hear what the judge has to say, because I was repulsed and very offended. She said, “Well, I don’t know what he’s going to say, but you can talk with him.” I said, “Well, M’am, when I called and spoke to your office, one of you guys told me you ‘only use ‘N’ for Non-Hispanic and ‘H’ for Hispanic. I beg to differ, and I will tell him that. In fact…” (Pausing to ask a Caucasian male (service member) for his traffic citation, who had just entered the lobby, I looked at his citation and showed the clerk (again through the glass window) that his traffic citation had the letter “W” annotated for his ethnicity, which is obviously because he is white. Wanting to make sure that she and I both understood that the previous explanation for the “N” on my ticket was preposterous, I then asked an African-American male for his traffic citation, and after looking at it, I showed her that even he had the letter “B” for Black. Speechless, the clerk said, “M’am, just have a seat and I’ll get you on back.”

Joining the other citizens waiting to appear before the judge, I waited patiently for my time to explain this to the judge. When it was finally my turn, the judge stated that I was cited for speeding, and asked me what was my intentions for coming to court that day. I began to explain to him all of the aforementioned information, but was interrupted by the courtroom attorney, who said that was not the time to explain the situation because it was not a trial. I said, “Well, I just want to know how the judge feels about his officers writing the letter “N” for an African-American’s ethnicity.” The judge (and the other court officials) chuckled and said, “M’am, what do you want to do? Do you want to pay the ticket or contest it? I’ll hear what you have to say in a continuance, but the attorney’s right, we can’t go into discussion about this right now. I will not proceed to try to explain what the city has done, without the officer being here. So, do you want a continuance?” I said, “Yes.” After explaining a few other legalities to me, he then set my court date for September 29, 2010, at 6:00 p.m. I thanked them and exited the courtroom.
Mrs. Jones' case is now being filed with the Kansas Human Rights Commission (the agency with the statutory authority to investigate profiling cases and request relief). We will be attending the hearing with Mrs. Jones and I will keep you all posted here on the blog...

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