Friday, July 24, 2009

Cops Hate Journalists Too

One night back in 2000 I was driving home from my job at NBC17 in Raleigh, N.C. It was around 11:45am. As I was driving down Glenwood Avenue, I noticed some police activity. Of course, the journalist in me had to know what was going on. It may have been "breaking news" and certainly I wanted to be the first to report it.

As I drove up on the scene, I saw a police officer directing and re-routing traffic. I pulled over to him and asked what was going on. He told me to keep going and that it was none of my concern. I then identified myself as a journalist with NBC17----at which time he told me he didn't care who I was and I had better move along "right now!" He then put his hand on his weapon. I told him I was going to report him. He replied, "Just get the hell on!" I then drove up to the next officer and asked (very nicely) if he could give me the officer's name. Since they weren't near each other, he had no idea of what had just transpired. He was very polite and gave me the officer's name. I might also add this particular officer was black. The other officer was white.

True to my word, I contacted the Raleigh Police Internal Affairs Unit on Monday and reported the incident. I explained I was on my way home and thought I had come up on some breaking news. Certainly the officer could've handled the situation differently and there was absolutely no need for him to go for his gun. I was just an innocent, non-threatening black female journalist in a car trying to get home.

A police investigator came to my job and took a statement. They probably did it to verify that I was who I said I was and they certainly didn't want to give the impression that they were going to dismiss my complaint.

A few months later, I received a letter in the mail indicating the officer had been reprimanded for his behavior.

I wonder now if I had been a white woman would the officer have been as rude as he was. But I choose to believe the cops don't like journalists either and on that particular dark night the word "journalist" was written all over my black face.

8 comments:

Mitch said...

You know, we all have our stories, but I also sometimes think some of these guys get on a power trip and forget that not only do they work for US, but that they really can't get away with everything all the time.

Whether it was race, power, or just plain stupidity, he had no right to say what he did to you, especially putting his hand on his gun. The punk!

Mary Anne said...

Bev, I'm sure race played a part in it. But one thing I always try NOT to tell cops is that I'm a lawyer! Whew, they hate us more than journalists! :)

Eileen Williams said...

Oh, Beverly, I am so sorry to learn that this happened to you. It may have been racially motivated but it could have been a power play.
Several years ago, I was late for my hair appointment and got stopped for speeding. There were two cops in the car and they both got out. One questioned me and wrote up the ticket. The other pulled out his billy club and walked circles around my car, tapping it in one of his hands. Of course, it frightened me.
This happened in a suburban neighborhood and all three of us were white. So, I just don't know. Some cops are wonderful human beings who risk their own lives to keep us safe. But others may fall victim to their own power trips. It's a quandary.

Beverly said...

Eileen,

I totally agree with you that some police officers are exceptionally nice. I have encountered many throughout my life. The Durham Police officers who worked long and hard to bring my grandson's father's murderer to justice were nothing short of amazing--in spite of the fact that I pestered them to no end.

I teach my grandson to respect and appreciate the police because they are supposed to serve and protect us---not to draw, shoot and ask questions later.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yes, this was obviously a race issue. Because when white people stop and gawk, police bend over backwards to fill them in, give them a tour of the crime scene, and give them picture postcards to take with them.

So an officer was rude to you. Fine. Complain about that. What on earth made you come to the conclusion that it was because you're black?

Oh, and it obviously must have been your first day at NBC17. By the second day, every real journalist has figured out that Raleigh Police officers don't talk to the media. They have supervisors and a PIO for that.

Kathie M. Thomas said...

It may have been a man/woman thing too. You never know but he might have been having a bad time with his woman and hated women trying to impress him. Who knows? All the same he shouldn't have behaved that way - we're always being told we shouldn't bring our personal lives into work.

Beverly said...

Dear Anonymous,

I do want to thank you for stopping by my blog and offering your opinion. I appreciate diverse opinions. They make for stimulating and engaging conversation. The problem with some folks is they always seem to misinterpret what they read or hear. Ask any viewer or journalist.

You said..."So an officer was rude to you. Fine. Complain about that."

And that's just what I did.

You said..."What on earth made you come to the conclusion that it was because you're black?"

My complaint was the threatening manner in which he approached me. Was it because I was black or female? That was YOUR conclusion. Get a copy of the report and see where it says I felt threatened because I wwas black. I felt threatened because of HIS BEHAVIOR.

You said... "every real journalist has figured out that Raleigh Police officers don't talk to the media. They have supervisors and a PIO for that."

My response: every REAL journalist has "sources" inside a police dept and friendly cops who will give them off the record comments until it can be verified on the record.

Obviously, you are not a journalist.

LindaAlexander said...

Without his commentary, there's no way to know whether the cop had a thing against blacks. I'd be frightened, however, by any cop who acted aggressively & you have every right to have a concern over that.

I'd be fairly sure, however, that his reaction DID have something to do w/the fact that you're a woman. White, black, otherwise, many male police have an attitude towards females. It IS a power thing & there's still opportunity for that power play behind the uniform since we are taught not to question authority.

I've been treated very badly by cops because I was a woman--& they were men, & they could. One cop in particular, was so rude I did indeed report him to his dept. No matter the reasoning behind the bad behavior--& since we cannot verify--we don't have to take it. There is recourse & we should not allow ourselves to be abused in any fashion.