Politics & Policy

Why Mistaken Identity Happens

(Mario Tama/Getty)
Black thugs make cops stop good blacks.

Why do police officers stop innocent black men? Reputedly racist “killer cops” get all the blame for such confrontations. But black hoodlums are at least partially responsible for casting suspicion on black men who merely resemble those wanted in police manhunts.

Some of America’s roughly 627,000 uniformed officers practice racial profiling and others may be black-hating bigots. Until mankind becomes perfect, the imperfection of prejudice will infect cops — as well as grocers, pilots, and, yes, even journalists.

Some cops stop black men who break the law. Former Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson might have instructed Michael Brown to stop walking in the street and then moved on. Unfortunately for Brown, a police dispatcher told officers to find “a black male . . . He’s got a red Cardinals hat, white T-shirt, yellow socks, and khaki shorts.” That suspect also carried stolen cigars. Wilson noticed that Brown matched that description. Moments earlier, in fact, Brown had robbed cigars from a convenience store and manhandled its clerk. So, Wilson stopped Brown. The rest is history.

Too often, though, cops stop good black men because bad ones place targets on their backs.

In his searing book Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed, the Wall Street Journal editorialist Jason L. Riley recalls driving home through Washington, D.C., after working late at USA Today back in 1993. “I was sitting at a red light when no fewer than four squad cars converged on me, lights flashing and sirens screaming.” Gun-wielding cops rousted Riley from his Volkswagen, threw him on the ground, handcuffed him, and then searched his car.

“When the police were finished,” Riley explains, “I was told that I fit the description of someone they were after, something about me having New York license plates and problems with gunrunners from up north.” If those blacks had not run guns, Riley almost certainly would have reached home without incident.

Just last August, Beverly Hills cops stopped film producer Charles Belk before an Emmy Awards pre-party. They cuffed him, sat him on a sidewalk, and detained him for six hours. “I was on the brink of tears,” Belk told NBC News.

Too bad for Belk, another black man allegedly was an accomplice of Brianna Clemons Kloutse, a black woman now charged with robbing nine banks — including a Citibank branch near Belk’s arrest scene. Police said that Belk “matched the physical characteristics of the second suspect and was in the area of the bank shortly after the robbery.”

If that black suspect had not knocked over banks, Belk almost surely would have celebrated the Emmys without distraction.

Black criminals even help harmless black men get killed.

On February 4, 1999, four undercover NYPD officers encountered a young, unarmed black man. In the confusion on a dark Bronx street, they shot him 19 times. Tragically, the late Amadou Diallo mirrored the police sketch of Isaac Jones, who lived a mile away and was sought by the cops who killed Diallo. That April, the so-called Bronx Rapist was arrested and charged with robbing and raping 29 women. His victims were primarily black and Hispanic females between the ages of 13 and 53, according to the New York Daily News. In August 2000, after sentencing Jones to 155 years in prison, Judge Joseph Fisch asked him: “Would Amadou Diallo be alive today if it were not for your activities here in the Bronx?”

“If you get pulled over for . . . Driving While Black, don’t be mad at the cop,” a young black man named Frederick Wilson II advises in a compelling video. “Be mad at the brothers who came before you who gave the reputation to the black man, so that a cop says, ‘Hey, look. There’s a car full of brothers. They’re probably up to no good.’”

“This is much less of a race issue than is widely reported in the media,” City University of Seattle criminal-justice professor Vincenzo A. Sainato tells me. “For example, a significant majority of cops going through the New York police academy these days are black or Hispanic. While there are a lot of white cops, there are a lot of non-whites, too. Unequivocally, most negative interactions, especially in urban areas, between cops and citizens involve blacks, but that is because they are disproportionately the ones reported by victims as the offenders.”

Yes, bad cops should be punished. Good cops should be promoted. And every officer should strive to serve even better. In that connection, body cameras look like a promising, high-tech way to bring sunshine to this entire sphere.

But those who have been screaming, rioting, and looting since the shooting in Ferguson should aim at least a smidgen of their rage at the black thugs who make cops stop good blacks.

— Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.

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