[guest post by Dana]
In a thoughtful essay, ESPN sports analyst and retired professional baseball player Doug Glanville relates his recent experience of being racially profiled while shoveling snow in the driveway of his Old Tudor house in Connecticut.
A police officer from West Hartford had pulled up across the street, exited his vehicle, and begun walking in my direction. I noted the strangeness of his being in Hartford—an entirely separate town with its own police force—so I thought he needed help. He approached me with purpose, and then, without any introduction or explanation he asked, “So, you trying to make a few extra bucks, shoveling people’s driveways around here?”
His attorney wife, furious upon being told what happened, emailed one of their neighbors who also happened to be their state senator. Her subject line read “Shoveling While Black”,
Doug just got detained by West Hartford Police in front of our house while shoveling our driveway, questioning him about asking to be paid for shoveling. The officer left when Doug told him that it was his house. There were several other people on our street out in front of their houses shoveling snow at the same time. None of them were stopped for questioning. Just wanted to vent to someone whom we know cares and would be equally outraged.
Her email set the wheels in motion for a meaningful and productive conversation with community leaders. (It was later discovered that a complaint of door-to-door soliciting from a resident of a neighboring community led the police offer pursuing complaint to Glanville’s street. The subject was described as a man Glanville allegedly resembled.)
Glanville walks readers through his loss of confidence as a homeowner and subsequent navigation through unfamiliar territory. Readers will observe that as Glanville, a public figure, chose to respond to the incident with an intentional measured deliberateness, any sensationalism was avoided.
The incident caused him to reflect on something he had always believed,
My biggest challenge as a father will be to help my kids navigate a world where being black is both a source of pride and a reason for caution. I want them to have respect for the police, but also a healthy fear—at least as long as racial profiling continues to be an element of law enforcement. But I also want them to go into the world with a firm sense of their own self-worth.
Glanville, citing the wisdom of his parents and how they raised him, closes with a somber look at his reality,
That upbringing is what enabled me to deal with this incident in a slow, communicative, and methodical way. And it now allows me to see the potential in the officer who approached me. He’s still young, and one day he could become a leading advocate for unbiased policing practices. But I wish he would sit down with my kids and answer their questions. That might help him understand how hard it is to be a father—let alone a father in a black family. And I’d like him to know how much my children—and all children—expect from the officers trained to protect them. At the end of all my conversations with my kids, there were many things they still didn’t understand. But my 5-year-old son reassured me: “That’s okay, Dad. I still want to be a police officer.”
Read the whole thing.
Update from West Hartford News, providing more details:
The West Hartford police reported that on Feb. 18, 2014, an officer responded to a complaint of a suspicious male on Concord Street, West Hartford. The complainant reported “a black male, in his 40’s, wearing a brown jacket and carrying a snow shovel,” had knocked on her neighbor’s door, police said. A town ordinance prohibits door-to-door solicitation.
According to the complaint, the same neighbors had issues in the recent past with a black male who had solicited money for shoveling snow. That first incident had been reported to the West Hartford Police, but the man had left the scene and was not located, police said.
The police dispatcher advised the responding officer that a party who matched the description was last seen heading east on Fern Street, crossing Prospect Avenue into Hartford, according to the report.
“The officer exited his vehicle and asked the man, who was later found to be Mr. Glanville, if he had been seeking work shoveling driveways. When Mr. Glanville advised that he had not, the officer then departed,” according to a report issued by police. “The officer took it on face value that Mr. Glanville was not the correct person and immediately left the scene.”
The suspect was later located at South Highland Street and Farmington Avenue and given a verbal warning for soliciting, according to police.
“While the officer’s actions in searching for the suspicious party were completely appropriate, we wish he had taken the extra time to introduce himself to Mr. Glanville and to explain the purpose of the question,” said police. “We have discussed this with the officer and will work to remind all of our officers of the importance of good interpersonal skills and taking time, when practical, to explain their actions.