Is it a Crime to be a White Guy in A Tan Car?
I had the unpleasant experience of being pulled over the other day by a Southaven Policeman. I was already behind schedule and I needed to get cat food and pick up my daughter at work and time was not on my side. So being stopped by the police wasn't exactly what I needed.
It seems that someone earlier that afternoon had been rude at the Taco Bell Restaurant on Stateline Road in Southaven, Mississippi. This person it seems had made a scene and the store management called the police. Well, I happened to be driving by and apparently the best description the Police had of the individual at that time was that it was a "white male in a tan car". Well, that did fit my general description, but since I had not been at the Taco Bell I could not have been who they were looking for.
I guess I will start at the beginning. I left the house at about 5:15 p.m. and drove the kids to the First Baptist Church of Southaven, Mississippi. I was already irritated with them as they were dragging and I had things to do. The cat food dilemma occurred because they had not said anything about it until the cat food was all gone. I was headed to find some when this incident occurred. First I dropped the kids off at the church and then got back out on Stateline and headed east . I passed a shopping area and saw this Southaven Policeman in the parking lot. He sped up out of the parking lot and entered the highway behind me. I wasn't particularly interested in him as I was driving the speed limit and wasn't guilty of anything. He followed me for awhile and then where the road narrows from 4 lanes to 2 lanes because of construction he turned on his lights. At first I thought he might want to get around me, but it became clear when I slowed that he was after me. I couldn't stop there as the road was too narrow so I pulled into a shopping parking area and stopped. I pulled my emergency brake and leaned out of the window to see what he wanted. At about that time another Policeman arrived and the first one approached me and wanted to know if I had been at Taco Bell. I told him "No" and he said that there had been an incident there and wanted to know if I had been involved. He said that the manager at Taco Bell had pointed me out as I drove down the road and said I was the man. I told him that they were wrong. I told him that I had just left First Baptist Church and that if he could call the preacher there and ask him since he is on the police force. About this time the policeman wants to know why I am so angry if I am not guilty? I told him that I'm in a hurry and explained the whole dilemma with the kids and my whole time schedule. The other Policeman said that I could be arrested for my attitude and I asked how? He said that I could be arrested for disorderly to which I said that I had not done anything and that they had the wrong man. The first officer wanted my license and I gave it to him, and while he checked me out me and the other one talked. I tried again to explain my schedule to which I was told that they were just doing their job. I heard the first officer call and ask if the suspect wore glasses which caused me to realize that they didn't have a clue to whom they were looking for. Apparently they began to realize this also as my license was returned to me, but not without a lecture on how I should behave when stopped by the Police. The second Policeman also said that he was sorry that I was inconvenienced and he said this several times.
I left and headed east on Stateline and they headed west. What I didn't know was that they went to the Taco Bell and described me to see if I fit the description of the suspect. According to the employees that I talked to later that evening the manager simply called in and it was not until they came there after stopping me that they got a description of the suspect. According to the employees at Taco Bell they asked if the person had glasses, how old and these type of things even though the manager according to them was saying that she knew the person had his tag number and that he was driving a Ford Contour. Incidentally I was driving a 1986 tan Ford Escort which doesn't look anything like a Ford Contour. I finally found some cat food, and arrived exactly at 6:01 p.m. at Schnucks to pick up my daughter and then came home. It wasn't until around seven that evening when I had to pickup the kids from church that I went down to Taco Bell to talk to the manager and ask if they had indeed pointed out my car to the Police. Although they said that the manager who had been involved had left, they were helpful in explaining what had taken place once I told them of my involvement.
What exactly had I done other than be a white guy in a tan car? Well actually nothing. The Police simply didn't find out enough information before they pulled me over. But for me the icing on the cake was that according to the Taco Bell employees, they were more interested in describing me to see if I was the suspect rather than finding out from the employees what the suspect looked like. Fortunately for me the man that the employees at Taco Bell described to me was older, didn't wear glasses and comes in there all the time. If I had been an even relatively close match it is quite possible those Policeman would have wanted to talk to me again. And keep in mind that no one ever placed me in or on the Taco Bell property on Stateline Road. In fact, when I went in that evening it was the first time I had ever been on their property.
What makes me so mad is that even though I was wrongly stopped and accused by the Police, I am supposed to thank them for their efforts. Well, I don't thank them for stopping me and I even have the audacity to expect that they would apologize for the whole incident. Now you're going to say , but didn't the second Policeman do that? Well, not exactly, what he said he was "he sorry for inconveniencing me." His statement implies that the whole incident was only an inconvenience for me, but it is far more. People see me pulled over and assume I've broken the law and keep in mind that my vehicle is clearly marked with my business sign so I'm a recognizable and my business reputation can be affected. Now I don't know how many people saw this incident, but it is still wrong and could have been avoided if the Police had gone to the Taco Bell first and got a correct description. But if they had wasted their time to do that they couldn't have apprehended me so quickly after the manager called. Also I'm angry because I was only pulled over because I was profiled. In this case it was "a white male in a tan car," but I was profiled nevertheless. I am also angry because I was threatened with arrest because I wasn't thankful for being stopped. I wasn't then and I'm still not thankful. I don't believe that anyone should be pulled over just on suspicion, but then I believe in the Constitution and I'm afraid that we long ago abandoned its simple due process protections.
What am I guilty of? Of just being "a white guy in a tan car."
Steve Havard is the owner of Havard Printing and is currently writing several books. Steve writes about a wide range of subjects from religion, to computers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can view his website at havardprinting.netfirms.com">http://havardprinting.netfirms.com