Friday, January 9, 2009

Shots in the dark

If not for good fortune and a relatively unassuming 1987 Honda Civic CRX that I tooled around in during my high school days, perhaps I might have been Robbie Tolan.

You see, for years I have frequented the area where Tolan was shot by a police officer in the early morning hours of New Year's Eve. I went to elementary school in the affluent, mostly white suburb of Bellaire. I spent my freshman year at Bellaire High School. And my regular joyrides around town often took me through the surrounding upscale neighborhoods.

Thus, I had plenty of opportunities to be mistaken for a car thief and have a cop pump a bullet into my liver.

My parents, my friends, my elders always warned me about the dangers of DWB through Bellaire, spinning yarns about late-night stops for missing tail lights or phantom illegal lane changes or even neighborhood watch gone wrong. "Where you headed, son?"

You know the deal. Or at the least you've heard about it on tee-vee.

Chalk it up to the foolishness of youth or a serious teenage stubborn streak, but I rarely heeded their advice. I'd just as soon zip through Bellaire - maybe even a few ticks above the speed limit - as I would through the familiar (safer) streets near my home. I guess you could say I survived.

All of us aren't so lucky. Not Tolan. Not Sean Bell. Not Baron Pikes. Certainly not Oscar Grant. But of course, everyone can't own a shitty Civic.

But let's see what happens from here, in this allegedly post-racial America. TNC, who's done some work on this sort of stuff in the past, is pessimistic about what's to come in the case of Grant:

I expect we'll soon be hearing explanations like "the gun summoned itself to the officers waist, unholstered itself and discharged."

Maybe. If anything, many of us have learned to be cynical about the nature of cops and internal affairs investigations and the limitations of our (their?) legal system. We don't really expect much, no?

Maybe, starting today, we should. Or at least I should. I've returned to Houston and I'd like to take a spin around town. Maybe a few spins.

I'm not driving a Civic this time around, and I need some assurances that I'll be more than lucky.


Knockout Ed said...

One of the things that boggles my mind about cops is that a lot of them don't seem to mind crooked cops that much. If I was a cop I would be internal affairs. To me the biggest threat to cops are other cops.

blackink said...

Right on, Ed. Seems to me that nothing undermines the trust between a community and its police force like dirty cops. Were I one of the ones in blue, I'd be trying my damndest to ferret out the criminals.

It just boggles the mind the lengths they're willing to go to defend this sort of behavior. No doubt, cops have a tough job. But they make it harder on themselves at times.