Monday, April 2, 2012

Searching for a reason (any reason)...

Of course something had to be done. There was a fight. There were the police. We can't possibly expect the police to climb back in their cars and leave without making the trip worth it, can we? I mean, it's not their fault the fight was over before they got there.

So the police did what the police do. They lined up a bunch of students at Pershing Middle School against a wall and searched them. I'm guessing this wouldn't have happened at Bellaire High or Memorial High. For, you see, the students who were searched at Pershing were black.

And, since they were black, you just know someone had to be carrying a weapon. Or drugs. Or something else kids aren't supposed to be walking around with. Oh, wait, none of the kids had anything illegal on them. Fancy that.

I guess down on the southwest side of town we don't concern ourselves with such archaic concepts as reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Just line 'em up and search 'em. If we find something we'll fill in the blanks on our report.

Somewhere along the line we've forgotten what kids do. Kids get into fights. It happens. It happened when I was in school, it happened when my dad was in school and it'll happen while my girls are in school. But this is about more than schools overreacting and using law enforcement to handle their disciplinary matters. Now we've added race to the mix.

There was no reason to line those kids up against a wall. There was no reason to search them. Standing around and watching a fight (if that's what the kids were doing) isn't a crime. There's nothing about the act of standing around that should elicit reasonable suspicion from the folks who carry guns and drive cars with noisemakers and strobe lights on them. Nothing, that is, except for the fact that the kids were black.

We've seen the statistics from the NYPD's stop and frisk program. We know that the vast majority of the folks subjected to being groped by the police were black and latino.

If you think that a black teenager living in the Third Ward or the Fifth Ward or in Southwest Houston has the same right to be left alone by the police as a white guy living in River Oaks, Memorial or the Heights, well, you're sadly delusional.

It doesn't raise any suspicions if the police see a couple of white guys chatting on the sidewalk or in a parking lot. But, change their skin color and there's a whole world of difference.

And what message are we sending our young people? You want them to believe we're living in a colorblind society where we are all treated equally under the law? If that's what you want, then explain to me how subjecting black teens to being searched by the police without cause promotes that message?

And who is the genius that thought this was a good idea? Someone had to suggest it. At least one of those officers had no qualms about searching the kids without reason. At least one of those officers thought he was doing his duty in serving the people of Houston by subjecting those kids to a search.

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