Thursday Night Ride: Presumed Guilt
So, there we were, first traffic light after the second of two regroups of the night. It was red for traffic heading our direction. A member of the local constabulary - San Dimas I believe contracts with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for the job - pulled into a controlled left turn lane for cross traffic and came to a stop as well. One of those cursed red arrows. He eyed us, and we eyed him right back, trying not to be too obvious.
Our light turns green and we kick off en-mass. Almost in unison the squad car's PA system squawks to life. "Have a good ride, guys." I guess he didn't see the one gal with us. Did I imagine he said that. You can bet the house on it.
My first though was "what the hell did he say." I mean the words may have belonged to the english language when they left his mouth, but during the process of making their way through the speaker system, they were somehow translated and ended up that strange incomprehensible, yet still oddly clear, lingo the adults in Charlie Brown's world speak. While interpretation often leads to multiple translation possibilities, the consensus was "keep to the right of the lane."
My second thought was "REALLY", you are going to get on your PA to admonish a group of adults who have been riding, and driving, the mean streets for, in my case at least, some thirty five years. If we had been sixteen drivers in a long line of sixteen motor vehicles just taking off from that same green light, would the deputy have admonished us to drive within the speed limit, to stay in line? Would he have reminded a group of pedestrians walking mid-block, to make their way to the corner before crossing the street? Hell no, to the first; maybe to the second. Did I detect more than a little bias when that speaker crackled to life? Darned straight I did. Profiling based on race or ethnicity has been a widely recognized problem for a long time. And rightly so. Profiling based on mode of transport may be less well known, but is not without precedent.
As I thought back over the incident, the voice always comes out like an airline pilot, or maybe a teacher with a bullhorn on a playground during recess. "Whooosh, whoosh" there is always the blow into the mouthpiece to make sure the device is working. "Ahhhhh-ll right now, you all don't seem to be capable of making good decisions on your own, so I am here to remind you about your responsibilities. Mwwa, maw maw, mwwaah. Mwa, mwaa." And then, like any admonition worth its weight, comes the kicker - "I've got my eyes on you." People in positions of authority should always end with that one, "lest ye of low morals forget".