If you were riding down the street and saw a group of teenage boys up against a fence with their hands behind their back, what would you think? Two uniformed police officers frisk them as one officer has a gun drawn pointing at the boys. Would you think that these brave officers were doing a great job? Would you think that the boys had done something awful? Would you feel safer knowing that these juvenile delinquents were off the streets?
Now let me tell you what really happened. My then thirteen-year-old son was walking home from school with his classmates. I was on my way home with my husband as we rode by. I saw the boys up against the fence and felt sad. Then as I looked back over the boys to see if I knew any of them I saw my son. Even though I could only see him from behind, I knew it was my son. Before I could react, the police sent the boys on their way. I got out and asked the officers what the problem was. I was told to mind my business. Rudely. They got into their cruisers and drove away.
When we got home, we asked my son what happened. He told us that it was no big deal. No big deal? My son was just frisked like a common criminal. I needed some answers and right now! My son proceeded to tell me that this happened everyday. Therefore, no big deal. I was shocked to say the least. We asked how long this had been going on. Since fifth grade. Four years. My son who came straight home, always in before the street lights came on, honor roll his whole life, was being treated like a thug. Everyday. Same police officers, same place, same group of kids. All good kids. My son’s friends since kindergarten.
I called our local police station and spoke with the captain in charge. He assured me that he would look into it and deal with it. The next day, my son came home with his shirt hanging out of his pants, missing buttons, trying to control his emotions. He said that the officers rousted them again and told the boys that their mommies couldn’t save them. Told them that they knew the boys were all “little bad asses” and that one day they would catch them “dirty.” I asked my son what “dirty” meant. Carrying drugs or guns.
At our next community meeting, I brought it up to the police representatives. I asked for someone to make it stop. Again, I was assured that it would be dealt with. My son came home the next day and asked me to stop. My husband reluctantly agreed. He said that the officers could plant drugs on our son or even hurt him if I persisted. We were forced to teach our son to remain passive everyday as his rights were violated. We taught him to comply as he was degraded and disrespected.
This continued on as my son went through middle school and through high school where he graduated second in his class. We bought him a car as a graduation gift. A few months later, my son was stopped a few blocks from our home. The officer was in the process of giving him a ticket for running through a stop sign when two other police cars pulled up. It was the officers that had been messing with him since elementary school. When they got out of their cars and saw my son, they broke into big smiles and said, “We got you now!” They asked to search his car. He agreed because we always told him to comply with their commands, not to give them any excuse to hurt him. He also knew that there was nothing in his car that was illegal. They searched the inside of the car and found nothing. They then opened the trunk and surprise! They said that they could smell the crack in his trunk. It was later thrown out of court.
This can happen to anyone. Your child as easy as mine. If you think that this doesn’t effect you, you’re wrong. If your child fits the description of someone the police are looking for or happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We all need to be concerned that all of our children are treated fairly because until they are all treated fairly, it could be your child, nephew, or neighbor.
My son is now a young man I am very proud of. He works hard and is a son any mother could love. I wrote this story so that the next time you see a young man up against a wall being frisked, you give him the benefit of the doubt. I want you to remember that even though I believe the vast majority of police officers are good, honest public servants, they are not all good, honest public servants.