We’ve all heard of the crime of Driving While Black. It’s when black people drive around in nice cars — which some cops interpret as probable cause for a stop and search. It’s happened to me (shout-out to Kokomo, Indiana). After my experience I learned how to respect the law (of not ending up in Kokomo, Indiana).
But the ABA Journal now tells us of a whole new crime African-Americans can commit: jogging.
Even after police apparently recognized him as a downtown defense lawyer, they went ahead and arrested him for no good reason while he was jogging in his longtime neighborhood in West Las Vegas, contends David Lee Phillips.
A lawsuit filed over the incident by Phillips, 58, who is black and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, is ongoing. In it, he contends that police threatened and harassed him before knocking him to the ground…
Man. A brother can’t even avoid getting hassled in Las Vegas…
There are a couple of undisputed facts. David Lee Phillips is black. And he was certainly jogging in a historically black part of Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Review-Journal picks up the story from Phillips’s lawsuit against LVPD:
Phillips, wearing jogging clothes with reflecting material on his running shoes and sweatpants, and dressed for the 38-degree weather, stopped to stretch while waiting for the light to change. He was carrying a golf club he uses to fend off stray dogs as he runs through the Bonanza Village subdivision.
Did Phillips brandish his golf club at police officers? Umm… no. But he did acknowledge the police, which is apparently a big no-no:
While crossing at the light and heading north on Vegas Drive, he waved to police Sgt. Raymond Reyes, who was stopped in traffic.
“He gave me a real hard look,” said Phillips.
When the light changed, Reyes turned left on Vegas Drive at a high rate of speed, made a U-turn, activated his light bar and stopped in front of Phillips, who said he set his golf club against the block wall and walked about 40 feet from it, to where Reyes came to a stop.
Phillips said the officer put his hand on his gun and told Phillips he was going to search him for weapons. Phillips asked him why he would do that and refused to be searched when Reyes couldn’t offer legal justification.
Oh, I see where Phillips went wrong. He opened his mouth and asked a police officer to show cause. Doesn’t he know that only white people get to do that? He must have been asleep the day they taught Af-Am criminal procedure in law school.
In any event, according to Phillips, Officer Reyes responded predictably:
Reyes called for backup, said Phillips, and six officers responded immediately.
“They were making fun of me,” he said. “Calling me an idiot, laughing at me.”
He said he did not hear any of the officers utter racial slurs.
All snarking aside, let me just say from personal experience that the call for back-up is the most intimidating part of these not-bothering-anybody-while-black “crimes.” When I got pulled over in Kokomo, the cop searched my car for drugs because he said it “smelled funny.” I explained that I had just had the thing washed. He had me outside of the car while peering into it, and I made some snide comment about how he was spending a lot of time trying to find a bottle of Febreeze. (Give me a break; I hadn’t been to law school yet.) The next thing I knew, I was in cuffs… and then he called for back-up. Yeah, because from a prone and cuffed position I was a real threat.
In any event, with six officers on the scene, Phillips stopped trying to defend his rights, and started trying to defend his life:
Phillips said that when he told the police his name and gave them his address, one officer noted there was a downtown lawyer by that name. Phillips said that when he said he was indeed that lawyer, the officer responded, “What kind of lawyer would live in a shithole neighborhood like this?”…
The threats came when Reyes ordered Phillips to walk to the back of his patrol car and another cop told him that if he moved he would be shot with a Taser. A third officer, he said, aimed a Taser at him.
“I just kept my hands up and said ‘I’m staying right here until you guys decide what you want me to do.”
Yep. That’s how it works.
Meanwhile, LVPD is shocked, shocked I say, to learn that there might be racial issues with some of its officers:
Police Public Information Officer Marcus Martin, who in Tuesday’s article was quoted as saying the department was unaware of any incidents of inappropriate police behavior, said Thursday that department policy prohibits him from talking about an ongoing lawsuit. Martin did say he was unaware of the Phillips incident and subsequent lawsuit when he spoke to a reporter earlier this week…
“I hope I’m not saying too much here, but maybe people should differentiate between police departments,” Martin said. “Have these people honestly gone through the proper channels?”
Proper channels? The dude was just out for a run. I guess he’ll be more “careful” next time.
Despite Suit By Black Lawyer Arrested While Jogging, Cops Disclaim Racial Issues [ABA Journal]
Attorney, arrested while jogging, has lawsuit pending against police [Las Vegas Review-Journal]