Dorothy Bland is the dean of the journalism department at the University of North Texas, and by all accounts a well-regarded academician. Ms. Bland recently wrote a piece for the Dallas Morning News wherein she accused her local police department of profiling her and accosting her simply because she is African-American. In an editorial titled, I was Caught 'Walking While Black', Ms. Bland says that she was wrongly "delayed" by police while taking a leisurely walk through her upscale Dallas/Ft. Worth neighborhood.
Here's what she said happened that fateful morning:
Yes. In the words of Sal Ruibal, "Walking while black is a crime in many jurisdictions. May God have mercy on our nation."
Knowing that the police officers are typically armed with guns and are a lot bigger than my 5 feet, 4 inches, I had no interest in my life's story playing out like Trayvon Martin's death. I stopped and asked the two officers if there was a problem; I don't remember getting a decent answer before one of the officers asked me where I lived and for identification.
I remember saying something like, "Around the corner. This is my neighborhood, and I'm a taxpayer who pays a lot of taxes." As for the I.D. question, how many Americans typically carry I.D. with them on their morning walk? Do you realize I bought the hoodie I was wearing after completing the Harvard University Institute for Management and Leadership in Education in 2014? Do you realize I have hosted gatherings for family, friends, faculty, staff and students in my home? Not once was a police officer called. To those officers, my education or property-owner status didn't matter. One officer captured my address and date of birth.
I guess I was simply a brown face in an affluent neighborhood…
Happily (or perhaps sadly), this was not the end of the story, because the Corinth Police Department was not about to take this slander lying down. Corinth Police Chief Debra Walthall wrote a response to the editorial and gave the Dallas Morning News a copy of the dashcam footage from the event to prove their innocence.
My officers, a field training officer and his recruit, observed Ms. Bland walking in the roadway wearing earbuds and unaware that there was a pickup truck directly behind her that had to almost come to a complete stop to avoid hitting her.
Impeding traffic is a Class C misdemeanor, and it is our policy to ask for identification from people we encounter for this type violation. I am surprised by her comments as this was not a confrontational encounter but a display of professionalism and genuine concern for her safety.
You can watch the footage for yourself below. The officers are courteous and Ms. Bland is obviously oblivious to her surroundings as she walks in the road, listening to her music and waving her arms. They don't fine her, they don't get aggressive with her; in fact, everything they do is both courteous and in her best interests. Yet, Ms. Bland chose to write a scathing op-ed lying about her experience, slandering some good officers and exacerbating a racial divide… and for what? Perhaps Ms. Bland hopes to incite racial violence? Perhaps she was hoping to get asked to appear on MSNBC and espouse the horrors of our prejudiced justice system.
Whatever Bland was trying to do, it failed. The police acted appropriately and professionally and we commend them for their work, even if the very people they are trying to defend are defaming them.
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