Question authority at your own risk post-9/11

  • Article by: ROBERT A. SCHROEDER
  • Updated: August 15, 2014 - 6:59 PM

It seems that those who enforce our laws have little patience for positive community relations.

Have you been pulled over for a traffic stop lately? I have, as has my wife.

Both times at 8 a.m. on bright sunny days. Both times for alleged violations of a tinted-window law — an unconstitutional law on our state’s books. But that’s not the point here. The demeanor of the trooper in the first case was abusive. His attitude and harsh language and secretiveness as to why we were being stopped was unbelievable.

We were mentally shaken for a couple of days after the encounter. Now the hook: My wife and I are both white and in our late 50s, and we drive a Volvo station wagon. I can only imagine what it would be like for a young man or woman of color to have been stopped by this same trooper. For the record, we were very respectful to the trooper but did ask why he pulled us over. Yes, we “questioned his authority,” if you want to spin it that way.

It appears that post-9 / 11 our law enforcement communities have steadily crept toward the concept of “taking and maintaining control of the situation” — the situation being any encounter with the public where law enforcement is questioning or taking action. This apparent change in law enforcement culture is far from the best attitudes associated with community policing.

As our elected officials begin to digest what has happened in Ferguson, Mo., in the last week, they should be looking beyond the ex-military hardware. The root problem lies in how law enforcement is interacting with citizens. All citizens. If a mild-mannered white couple can be treated with unprovoked aggressive disrespect, think of what is in store for those not white, not middle age, not driving a station wagon. I’m sure you get the picture. If not, look at how the citizens of Ferguson were treated. Does the fellow standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square strike a chord, America?



Robert A. Schroeder lives in Minneapolis.

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