Black men share their thoughts on being stopped by law enforcement

Franklin D. Revels Jr. Tampa

One day, I left my apartment to walk to a friend’s house. As I stepped onto the sidewalk, I made eye contact with a cop who was sitting in his car. I was stopped by him and told I fit the description of a suspect wanted in shooting that had just taken place.

The description I heard over his radio was a Black male, 5 feet 7 inches to 5 feet 9 inches, weight 150 to 160 pounds, wearing black shorts and a white T-shirt, last seen running northwest from the scene.

I was stopped a little over three miles away from where the shooting took place walking southeast. At the time, I was 6 feet 3 inches tall, 190 pounds and I had on yellow shorts and a red shirt.

Another time I was pulled over, I was asked for identification and I was asked if the vehicle belonged to me. I had committed no violation. When I told him the car was mine, the officer asked how I could afford that vehicle. At that time, I was driving a 1993 Honda Prelude and worked as a car salesman. When he saw my ID and business cards, he let me go.

Kevin Mitchell Sales representative Lithia

I was 19 when I was returning home at around 2 a.m. from my retail sales job After pulling into my (FishHawk) community, I heard the sound of a siren and pulled over. I knew the protocol too well based on what my dad taught my brothers and me.

When the officer approached, he asked, “What are you doing in this neighborhood?’ I responded by saying, “I’m on my way home, sir… may I ask why I’m being pulled over?” It was late, I was alone, afraid and knew I should not press my question.

He ignored my question, and proceeded to ask, “Why are you out so late?” After responding “I’m returning from work,” he asked, “Where exactly do you live? What is your address?” I answered his questions while he pointed his flashlight in my face and into my car.

After asking for my license, he walked to his car, returning after what seemed like 10 minutes, and pointed his flashlight in my face, once again saying, “Go get your license plate light checked.” He then walked away.

I shared the experience with my parents and my dad confirmed what I suspected: the light on my plate worked just fine.

Kristian James University of Florida undergraduate student Gainesville

I have never had a negative encounter with a police officer. However, being aware of the many fatal interactions out there, I carry a fear in my heart every time I even see a police vehicle.

On May 30, around 8 p.m., I called the police to my apartment to report a potentially violent domestic dispute. When the phone operator told me they would be sending an officer, I knew immediately that I would have to let the officer into my building. I was immediately overcome with fear.

This is not the fear an insectophobe, such as myself, feels when they see a flying cockroach. This is a genuine fear for my life. This is a fear that creates an empty feeling in my chest.

This is a fear that keeps my thumb hovering just above my friend’s phone number should anything happen. This is a fear that incites conversations among thousands of Black/Black passing families about what to do when approached by a police officer.

No one should have to feel this type of fear around those who are supposed to protect us. It is time for reform.

Andreas Butler Florida Courier reporter Daytona Beach

I was stopped once while covering an election while reporting for this newspaper. I was leaving a precinct on Daytona Beach’s beachside. The cop said there was drug activity in the area.

When I was in high school, a cop stopped me and asked me where I was that morning. He said he had to because a girl was raped that day, but he knew me and knew that I wasn’t the one. The thing was I had dreadlocks like the suspect.

When I was in high school, three friends and I were pulled over by the police who held guns to our heads. We were handcuffed and put in the back of a squad car. The sergeant who came knew me and one of my friends because he was our baseball coach a few years earlier. Three of us were released, but the driver went to jail. The police suspected us of being robbers.

Not too long ago, I was pulled over for failing to stop at a stop sign. I did stop because I saw the cop on the other street. He waited until I passed then pulled me over two stop signs later. I was upset. He asked to search the vehicle, but I refused. They let me go.

Another time I left a bar on a bicycle. The cop followed me to the ATM and stopped me for no reason. He just asked where I was going. I told him I was going home. It was still daylight outside.

 

Pierre Louis Retired U.S. Marine Daytona Beach

I have had positive and negative experiences in my life as it relates to law enforcement. Many years ago, when I was driving a very expensive classic Mercedes Benz, I was constantly stopped by law enforcement officers.

It didn’t bother me to get stopped in so much as the comment that was always made was, “Is this your car?”, when the officer already ran the plates, because he mentioned my name as soon as he walked up to the car. My sister mentioned to me that it was called “driving while Black” and welcome back to America.

I had been living overseas so long I forgot that certain people still think in those archaic ways. The frustration set in when it happened so many times. Because I had a short stint as a police explorer and retired from the Marines, I understand that being a police officer is not an easy job.

Many people have never been in the type of split second and grave situations an officer has to deal with daily. I commend the good officers for keeping our communities safe.

I may not agree with every call to action, but I support law enforcement because our communities are not safe with civil unrest. Certain elements will take advantage of innocent people. Also, I am a strong proponent of more people of color becoming police officers.

PE Cobb Miami Gardens Businessman

Three friends and I were walking home from school and passed several businesses near Little Havana a few blocks west of the old Orange Bowl, when a City of Miami police cruiser whisked past us.

We noticed him and knew he would return. We began telling ourselves he’s going to return; we’re going to keep walking and ignore him; we haven’t done anything.

Sure enough he did a U-turn and rode alongside us as we walked. Finally he lowered his window and began questioning us. We didn’t respond.

The officer then drove up onto the sidewalk to block our path. We continued around him.He got out and asked us to stop. We kept walking – or at least that’s what I thought. Next thing I heard a very weak voice say my name and my friend “Paul.”

I turned in disgust to answer my friend Martin but judging by the distance of his voice, I knew he wasn’t still walking with us. When I looked back,  the officer was in a shooter’s stance with his gun drawn at Paul and me. The other two friends stopped.

The officer asked “Why didn’t you stop? You heard me!” He slapped my Kangol off my head. He questioned us further and eventually allowed us to continue on.

Haroon Sayed Bethune-Cookman University student Punta Gorda

I have been pulled over many times. I have had plenty of good experiences and a few bad ones as well. Most of my encounters have been pleasant but there are a few encounters that were very confrontational, and I was belittled.

When I get pulled over, I usually don’t feel scared or anything unless I know I’m in the wrong. I don’t really have a reaction until I speak with the officer. I’d say out of ten times I was pulled over, only twice were bad experiences.

I don’t believe police are bad; I believe people are bad. There are good people and bad people, good cops and bad cops. The system needs to find ways to filter out the bad.

Delvin Morris Bethune-Cookman University student Apopka

As a Black man, it is very stressful to me because we have to be the nicest person when coming in contact with them [White police officers]. It’s so easy for them to “fear for their lives,” when in actuality we as Black individuals really do fear for our lives when getting pulled over by police.

It’s a very scary feeling. Nowadays, when you are getting pulled over by police your life can be taken from you in a blink of an eye. That’s why I’m always very cautious and polite when coming in contact with them.

We just can’t be ourselves around police. One wrong assumption or one wrong move you make, and you could be the next name on a hashtag.

 

Joseph Dean Hillsborough Community College student Tampa

I got pulled over for basically no reason. He said it looked like it was something wrong with my headlight when there wasn’t anything wrong. But I didn’t question it because I didn’t want to make the situation worse.

Then he just asked me questions, like where I was going or where I came from. He was also looking inside of my car, I guess to see if he could find a legitimate reason as to pulling me over.

Eventually, he ended up not even giving me a ticket because I didn’t do anything wrong to begin with. I wasn’t really that scared afterwards, only because he seemed like a cool cop. Once I was able to leave, I felt much better

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