Driving While Black in Durham

by Jennifer,

Greetings,

thank you to all members on the panel for hosting this very important and well needed discussion and for giving community members an opportunity to engage and share their thoughts and experiences.

My submission is in the form of a question in relation to an experience(s) our 21 year old son had with a DR Police Officer during an alleged traffic violation earlier this year, and culminates with thoughts and a suggestion.

Our son was driving a company vehicle while working at his part-time job when he was stopped by the officer, who advised him that he was speeding. The exact speed was not given. The officer took our son's information and proceeded to ask him questions - the first question he asked was "Have you ever been in trouble with the Law?" The Officer did not give our son a speeding ticket, but did end up calling his workplace to advise of the alleged offense. Thankfully, because of our son's good reputation and work ethic his superiors did not even address this with him until a much later date, when the phone call was mentioned in passing, during a conversation.

Just to put this in context - our son is a respectable, polite and law abiding young man who just graduated from University with an Honors BA in Finance. He is a reputable member of our community and is regarded as a leader and example for other young men. Our son has never been in trouble with the law.

I would like to know if this line of questioning is standard for people driving company vehicles, or is it just reserved for young black men? Interestingly enough, the officer was not black, but he was also a racialized minority.

We have done our best to raise our children with traditional morals and values. Among those, respecting their elders and authority are highly ranked.

We have also done our best to instill within them confidence and self worth. However, when these types of encounters take place, especially at the hands of those they've been taught to respect, this diminishes the work that we've done as parents. With repeated occurrences, not only does this chip away at one's self esteem, it breeds mistrust. My son and his friends are also frequetly followed by police officers when driving in Durham. Good young men - none of them have been in trouble with law enforcement. They are not usually stopped, but just followed. Not sure if intimidation is the goal here but if this is unnerving for the average adult, I think most people would agree that for a young black male in this racially charged climate, this practice can be quite worrisome.

In my opinion, it would be great to see the implementation of plans/services/training/education in Durham that would facilitate more positive interaction and engagement between Police Officers and the black community (especially young men). I believe this would be helpful in rebuilding the rapidly eroding trust of the black community and also provide an opportunity for Officers to realize that not every black male is a perceived threat and need not be treated like a criminal.

Thank you for your time.

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