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Something I've not seen in the blogosphere, perhaps because it was local to california - Zer Netmouse
March 9th, 2009
05:59 am

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Something I've not seen in the blogosphere, perhaps because it was local to california
Last week I took a business trip to San Diego. I don't own a TV at home so while staying at a hotel I tend to turn the TV on. Last week one of the things I watched on TV was a Febuary 17 realsports piece about how a young black man, Robbie Tolan, was shot on December 31 in Bellaire by a police officer, right in front of his parents, in front of their home, after police officers followed Tolan home after allegedly having run his plates and mistakenly (the plate number was entered incorrectly) found him to be driving a stolen car. Robbie was unarmed, lying on the ground, when he was shot. According to him and his parents he had risen slightly from a prone position and called out to protest his mother's being shoved against the garage after his parents came out of their home to speak to the officers. His father was being detained up against a car by the other officer at the time. Robbie survived the near-fatal shooting though apparently the bullet will remain lodged in his liver (it entered through his chest and passed through a lung on the way there). Now, he and his parents are still waiting for results of an investigation into the shooting.

It was heart-wrenching to hear his parents tell the story of what happened, including that they were detained by the police in separate cars and not allowed to go with their son to the hospital when the ambulance came. Robert and Marion Tolan have lived in Bellaire for some 15 years. They are the only black family living in their neighborhood. A former baseball player, Bobbie Tolan is well known in the area. When the came out their front door in their pajamas on new year's eve they had no expectation that they or their son would face lethal force. They expected to be able to clear things up through discussion. That seems like a reasonable expectation to me.

Houston news coverage of this story indicates the Bellaire police department is researching their stopped car cases to look for evidence of racial profiling. The policeman who shot Tolan had a history of citations for things like using too much force. I'll be interested to see what the city investigation concludes about the incident.

However we work on race in this country in the next few years, I hope we can find a number of real and lasting ways to try and make sure this sort of thing doesn't happen any more. It's not just about race, of course, it's also about having a society that reacts strongly to evidence of police violence and abuse of power. I was saddened to watch the report on this case and to search for it afterwards in the news online and see so little coverage and so little discussion.

(16 comments | Leave a comment)

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From:rmeidaking
Date:March 9th, 2009 11:24 am (UTC)
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You need to look at the flip side: Have you tried being a white person in Detroit? A couple of years ago, I went down to the east side to get a picture of a house my cousins lived in from approximately 1870 until 1955 (eighty-five years in one house should count for something). I was told by a well-meaning middle-aged black woman to get off her block. It cuts both ways.
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From:netmouse
Date:March 9th, 2009 12:21 pm (UTC)
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The circumstances don't seem parallel to me at all. You don't live in that neighborhood, and the well-meaning black woman wasn't the local police, shooting at your son...
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From:netmouse
Date:March 9th, 2009 12:22 pm (UTC)
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PS I'm curious: what did you tell the woman? Did you tell her why you were there?
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From:rmeidaking
Date:March 9th, 2009 01:01 pm (UTC)
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Yes. Well, I asked her if this house was a particular address (since the houses mostly didn't have full address numbers attached) and she asked why I was there. I told her that I believed my great-uncle had built, or at least lived in, the house starting around 1870, but the family moved to the suburbs in the 1950s. I wanted a picture. She looked around nervously and told me that it really wasn't safe, that I should leave now.

It was clear that she was concerned for my safety, that she expected someone from a nearby house to start shooting or otherwise causing trouble at any moment.
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From:phawkwood
Date:March 9th, 2009 03:54 pm (UTC)
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I grew up on the east side of detroit, and though I never experienced this myself, a friend of mine tells a story about delivering pizza for Dominos. As the story goes he knocks on the door, they take and pay for the pizza, then in conversational tones they mention to him that they don't really like white folk in this neighborhood and he shouldn't come back.

When he returned to his shop the manger apologized, saying he knew that about that area but wasn't thinking.

Who knows how accurate the story is.

Having said that I don't think it's a lack of policing, police can't be expected to be on ever street corner, watching every citizen for signs of possible harm, nor can the police control how people think about one another. If they don't like you because of the color of your skin, there is nothing the police can do unless and until they take some physical action.

This is an issue of the racism that still runs deep in our country. I hope we find ways to overcome it, but more police aren't it.
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From:netmouse
Date:March 11th, 2009 12:15 pm (UTC)
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Can you tell me what area that is? (like, the streets that encompass it)
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From:phawkwood
Date:March 11th, 2009 01:09 pm (UTC)
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I grew up in a neighborhood on the east side known as Indian Village. Three streets, Seminole, Iroquois, and Burns about 10 blocks long from Jefferson to Mack Ave.

I can't honestly speak to where he was working at the time, I believe it might have been the Domino's that lived in the old NBD bank building for a time on the corner of Kercheval and Van Dyke, but again, I'm not at all sure.

And the story may be an exaggeration or an out right fabrication... I honestly can't vouch for it.
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From:netmouse
Date:March 11th, 2009 12:16 pm (UTC)
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Can you tell me where this was? (the address of your great-uncle's house would work)
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From:rmeidaking
Date:March 11th, 2009 02:12 pm (UTC)
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The house's address is 3100 Chene. I was probably a block or so north of the actual house. It's on Chene, between Gratiot and Mack. The incident occurred in the summer of 2004.
From:tlatoani
Date:March 9th, 2009 12:33 pm (UTC)
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That has nothing at all to do with abuse of police power, does it?
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From:rmeidaking
Date:March 9th, 2009 01:02 pm (UTC)
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Well, absence of police power, actually.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 11th, 2009 02:22 pm (UTC)
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If we want to talk about abuse of police power, I could discuss the time I got a speeding ticket on US-127 between Lansing and Jackson. The cop was *screaming* at me. I got him to calm down by taking down his name, his badge number, and asking who his supervisor was. He had, just prior to that, ordered me to get out of the car, which I refused. He seemed to be upset that the van still had Illinois plates, while I was a resident of Washtenaw County. I am very glad, still, that I did not get out of the van.
(Deleted comment)
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From:netmouse
Date:March 9th, 2009 01:45 pm (UTC)
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well, the internet is vasty and wide, isn't it?

My news tracking hasn't been as good lately since novapsyche is mostly offline. I had gotten in the habit of follower her link serving to read the news. But no, I saw no discussion of that at the beginning of the year. Did you see it in blogs, and if so can you point me to any of those discussions?

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From:_earthshine_
Date:March 9th, 2009 03:37 pm (UTC)
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Just cuz i'm curious like that, i looked up the dad's baseball career. Not shabby. He played in the majors through 15 seasons (save 1 he took out to play pro in Japan), and spent many more years as a coach and player/manager in other leagues. He also played for the World Champ 67 Cards and went with the Phillies (a team close to my heart) to the Pennant in '76. He batted over .260 in the majors, averaging something like 6 home runs and 35 RBIs a season.

Turns out Robbie was also a ball player, likely coming up in the minors. It's up for debate as to weather or not the gunshot wound will end his career.

This is all ancillary curiosity, as i said, but interesting to me. These are the lives affected by this.
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From:phawkwood
Date:March 9th, 2009 03:39 pm (UTC)
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Working in public safety, though not (as I had hoped growing up) as a police officer, I still get to see both sides of these situations.

I am not at all defending the use of deadly force in this case, I hope that the officer involved in punished for what, based on what's reported here, seems like a flagrant use of excessive force. However, reading a textual description of events does not fully convey what's really going on. There is a lot of emotion, a lot of physical reactions involved in a situation like that. And there are a lot of split second decisions.

It is quite easy to analyze for hours at a time, a decision made in less than a few seconds and find fault with it, but we must always remember the decision making environment that those people must work in.

Now, having said that, this sounds (again from the related information) inexcusable. A subject who is proned out, with his hands visible cannot be a threat to life and limb, and there was no cause for deadly force. This, like the incident on the train platform in oakland, sounds reprehensible.

The solution is well paid, well trained, well supervised, and highly disciplined police officers, who are held accountable for their actions. But really we have none of those things. Well paid and well trained takes money, and we all know how evil the big "T" word is. But lets face it, we get what we pay for. New Orleans, the lowest paid big city police force in the country is the perfect example of that.

Well supervised... good supervisors come from well paid and well trained police officers. Accountable, ask jsut about any cop and they'll tell you it's "us against them", police don't trust the public, because all too often the public rushes to judgement about police actions without understanding the circumstances in which those decisions were made. Is it a cop out from time to time by the police, of course, but do they get treated unfairly by the public as well, absolutely. The systems of accountability much be balanced, and public outrage should never play a part in an incident review.

Additionally we need more cameras in police cars, and microphones on police officers. Video is a two edged sword, and as much as we would like it does not (in fact seldom) tell the whole story, it does however give some good information, when taken in the right context.

And this is not limited to racial issues. We had an issue here in suburban KCMO where a police officer omitted exculpatory evidence from a case because he was having a sexual affair with the wife of the accused (whom he later married) The city is out 16 million over that one, but as far as I know he still has his job as an office, despite a spotty history.

It is a very complicated issue, and it is never as clear as we all wish it would be. Keeping the piece is not an easy job, and I do not envy those that have it. Having said that, they accepted the responsibility of life and death, and they must be held to a much higher standard.
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