The ACLU is representing two black men who they claim were the victims of racial profiling when they were stopped by Colorado Springs police. One of the men used his phone to record the event as it happened even as he was pulled from the car, right up until the point when he was pushed face down into the ground and handcuffed.
The two brothers were within a block of their home when they were stopped. Shortly after pulling the car over, an officer opened the driver’s door and, pointing his taser at Benjamin, demanded that he exit the vehicle. The officers immediately handcuffed, searched, and then detained him in the back of a police vehicle, even though he had been fully cooperative, no weapons or contraband were found, and there was no evidence to suggest that he had been involved in any criminal activity.
As his brother was being removed from the car, Ryan Brown began recording the scene on his phone. His repeated requests for the officers to identify the reason for the traffic stop were ignored, despite official Colorado Springs Police Department policy that instructs officers to begin each interaction by advising drivers of what prompted the stop. The video recording catches a quick glimpse of an officer approaching the passenger-side door with a gun raised in a shooting position. Officers worked together to force Ryan from his car, push him to the ground, face down in the snow, search him, and cuff him, all the while at gunpoint.
I find Ryan Brown’s presence of mind and calmness in the face of the police actions to be remarkable, considering that they could well have killed him, such is the state of policing in the US. Of course, that did not stop police from filing criminal charges against him of “interfering with official police duties”, one of the myriad charges filed against anyone that the police want to harass, like resisting arrest or disorderly conduct or obstruction or assault.
A lot of attention has been focused on the shootings by police of unarmed black men, with the police now whining that no one understands the stress they feel in encounters with the public and the quick decisions they have to make. But what undercuts their case is not how they behave in those high profile tragedies. It is how they behave in ordinary everyday situations where they absolutely humiliate people and abuse them even when there are no grounds for suspecting that they have done anything wrong, unless being young, black, and male is prima facie evidence of criminal behavior.