An Encounter With a D.C. Police Officer Leads to an Arrest

By Colbert I. King
Saturday, August 15, 2009

Has this ever happened to you or to someone you know?

A reader of last week's column sent me the following e-mail:

"I've been wrestling with an event that has scarred me since its occurrence.

"I attended a client dinner meeting one summer night last year with [a public figure]. I had one glass of wine with dinner. Due to the late hour, I left the dinner and proceeded home around 10:30 p.m. To give you the proper backdrop, I normally take Metro to work, but on this day I drove due to the expected late evening dinner. Driving down K Street toward Highway 66, I ran through a speed trap. I have a nice, expensive car -- with all the trimmings. Much to my chagrin, I'm sure I was speeding but not recklessly. More to the point, I was pulled over."

The e-mailer said he promptly provided the police officer with his license and registration, as he was taught about being a "black man in America."

"I was asked to step out of the car after the officer ran my information. I was asked repeatedly whether or not I had been drinking. My answer repeatedly was that I had one glass of wine with dinner with a client. The officer became dissatisfied with my response and said something to the effect that he had to find out why I was driving so fast. My honest explanation -- 'I don't normally drive into the District, I wasn't aware that the speed limit throughout the District was 25 mph unless posted otherwise, and that I live in [the D.C. suburbs] -- so all I was thinking about was getting home so I could grab a couple of hours of sleep before my pending flight out of National at 6 a.m. the next morning.' "

This is where, he said, it got interesting.

"I was asked to step to the rear of the car and asked to say the alphabet starting at the letter 'D' and ending with the letter 'X.' I remembered my nursery song and recited it. After more verbal questioning which seemingly covered the same old ground, I began to get pissed off -- as I can imagine Skip Gates did during his encounter with Sgt. Crowley. The officer asked me to step up on the curb and recite the alphabet again as if he forgot that he already asked me to do that. I asked, 'Didn't we do this already?' Noticing my disposition (in which I said nothing disrespectful) the officer said, 'So, you're getting frustrated, huh?' I said yes I was."

And then?

"The encounter soon led to questions about whether I had any weapons or drugs. I was asked to open my trunk which I did. Finding nothing in the trunk, I was asked to turn around. To my dismay and shock, handcuffs were placed on me and I was taken to jail for speeding."

The reader continued:

"I spent my whole life trying not to become a negative statistic. I never wanted to embarrass my mother. In short, I've always tried to do the right things in life. It took one encounter to forever remind me of Malcolm X's axiom for the educated black man. I won't repeat it here because I know you know what he said.

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