Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Race bait

Dateline 2005:
I was pulled over at a police checkpoint around 2am one night. I was on my way home to New Jersey to my family. It was set right before entering the Lincoln Tunnel. I was told to park behind other cars in front of a mobile unit while licenses were checked. I saw several cars in front of me leave as they pulled off back into the tunnel, but I was held in place. Finally an officer came to the passenger side window and told me to get out of the car.
“Is there a problem, officer?”
“Get out of the car NOW, sir.”
I got out and was handcuffed from behind. I kept asking, “What’s wrong?” “Why are you arresting me?” The cop said, “Shut up, sir.”
He brought me into the unit and I was put in a tiny cell with several other drivers. There was nowhere to sit so we all stood up.
After about an hour another officer came over to me and said, “You live in Brooklyn?” I said, “No – Morristown, New Jersey (where I lived at the time)." He murmured, “It’ll be better for you if you tell the truth.” I said I was.
He walked away. I stood in the cell for the next 3 hours while some others who had been arrested were released until there were only a handful of us. Finally, the cell door was opened. I was exhausted. I had been standing all night – and still cuffed. We were moved to a paddy wagon and driven to a precinct. Inside the back of the pitch-black wagon, we were chained together.
I was processed at the station – I have no record – and was thumb printed and photographed. We were then separated, to be placed in cells. Then the same cop from earlier asked me again – “Do you live in Brooklyn?” I said “No”.
“All right, then.”
I was taken down a long hallway past several cells, where I could hear men sleeping. I was brought all the way to the end of a row and put into a dark cell. I could see someone else was there. I had never been arrested or in jail before. I sat on the bottom bunk and never laid down. I had to go to the bathroom (there was a tiny toilet) but held it all night. The other figure in the room and I never spoke a word.
The next morning, I was hauled out and again put in another paddy wagon - this time chained at the ankles with several other men. We traveled through downtown Manhattan. So strange to see people going to work as if it were any other day. 
And I still didn’t know what I was there for.
I was brought into a courthouse and placed into a holding cell with about 30 other people. I was told by someone there that we were waiting to talk to a judge about our case. (the police never gave me this information though I asked several times).
After waiting all day, my name was finally called. I was brought before the judge. I was asked pointedly: “Are you Keith Brown, who resides at so & so Brooklyn?” I said, “No, your honor.”
“You fit the description of a Keith Brown who is accused of several bicycle thefts in Brooklyn.” 
They had a name and a description – African American, around my age and height, and an address –but that was all. No picture, no social security number. No known record.
It wasn’t enough to hold me any longer, but they scheduled a court date at a later time where I would have to defend myself and have my arrest wiped from the record. Which I did, with the help of an expensive lawyer.
No apologies from NYPD were forthcoming. I remember walking out on to the street after the ordeal disheveled, tired, and dispirited. 
But not really sure how to feel – except the angriest I’d ever been.

No comments: