Thursday, June 2, 2011
Parking While Black in Orinda, Part Deux
If you have not read Parking While Black in Orinda, please read that first so I don't have to recap the whole ugly story. Suffice to say that the African American cleaning people we hired were humiliated by the Orinda police, for no ostensible reason, right in front of our house and our neighbors. Now, we had been stewing over this for days and my husband decided to go to the police station and talk to them about it. At the very least, we hoped to find out which neighbor had called the police and why.
Calmly and politely, my husband recapped the entire story to the friendly station clerk. In the course of the conversation, he managed to learn that there was no record of a call or complaint pertaining to the cleaners (We had suspected an unfriendly, suspicious neighbor across the street). Of course, the only conclusion we could draw was that the police noticed two people driving while black, followed them to our house and harassed them, just because.
The police chief was unavailable to talk, but after about twelve minutes a sergeant came out. The kind of big mean SOB who thrives on having authority over people. My husband started to recount what had happened. Unfortunately, having just told the story to the clerk, he had gotten himself worked up all over again. He is sixty one, and had witnessed two people his age, plus or minus two years, falling apart in our kitchen. He still gets emotional every time he talks about it. So when asked to describe the officer who came to the door, he took an unnecessary tangent and replied "I see him all the time outside Starbucks, drinking lattes. He likes to ogle my daughter." That was all it took to set the Sergeant off. "I don't need you. " the officer bellowed. "Who needs you? Get the hell out of my station."
Shocked at the way he was being addressed, my husband sprang from his chair with such vigor that he knocked it over. "Pick it up! You pick that up." the policeman roared. "And get the hell out of here." But my husband had worked himself up and wouldn't back down. "You're just like them - You're all the same. I just want to know, do you have a policy of stopping people for parking while black, for driving while black?"
At that, the enraged cop ordered my husband to leave, escorted him out of the police station and followed him to the parking lot, badgering him the entire time. And then the guy did something truly astounding: he threatened us. "Don't bother calling us if anything happens. If you have a burglary or something. Because we're not coming out."
"Don't worry," my old man shot back. "Someone could be killing me, and I still wouldn't want you to come out."
Now that is what I call a positive police presence. You treat visitors like criminals and residents like crap. Did my husband lose his cool? A little. Who wouldn't? That was a disgusting thing to witness and it happened right in front of our house. Not only was it racial profiling, it was STOOPID racial profiling: they harassed two people in their sixties with buckets and mops and wouldn't drop it after we vouched for them. And now, to top it all off, Orinda's finest, who technically work for us and whose salaries we help pay, have abdicated their responsibility to protect us.