Austin’s Scott Henson is the author of Texas’ leading criminal justice blog, Grits For Breakfast.
Scott Henson is also white. Scott has a two year old granddaughter who is black.
Yesterday, while walking his granddaughter to a park in Austin, Scott was interrogated, detained, and harassed by no less than 3 officer in 3 separate patrol cars. The officers demanded to know what Scott was doing and where he was going.
Scott’s crime? Someone called 911 to report an white man walking with a young black child.
Two blocks from home, an Austin police officer pulled up and, to my surprise, got out and announced she was there to question me. Someone had called 911, she said, to report a suspicious looking white man walking down the street holding hands with a black toddler. (I could tell where this line of questioning was headed.) She said this as though it were the most natural thing in the world for police to investigate, as though my race and Ty’s, in and of itself, was reason enough to stop and question me…
Not wanting to violate the failure to identify statute, I gave her my name, address and birthdate but refused to answer any other questions. (“I’m going to write down that you were noncooperative,” she warned ominously, as though admonishing an elementary school student that some infraction might go on their permanent record. “Oh no, not that,” I thought to myself.)
I asked if we could leave, but the officer kept me there demanding answers. “Someone complained,” she declared, “we have to follow up.” “Like hell you do,” I told her, “not when you don’t have reasonable suspicion to think I did anything wrong.”
To my astonishment, while we were talking, another officer pulled up in response to the 911 call, this one a tall, older, thick-chested fellow with graying hair who felt the need to demonstrate his dominance. I replied to his “I’m in charge here” bluster by again asking, “Am I free to go?” “No you are not,” he insisted, “not until I’m finished,” and continued his pointless monologue.
Meanwhile, a THIRD police car pulled up to the scene. By then I was getting mad. Austin police had already disrupted my day significantly because they’re supposedly out hunting armed killers, but they’ve got enough extra cops lollygagging around to send THREE squad cars to investigate me for Babysitting While White?
It’s hard to define exactly what the greater tragedy is in this story. That an Austinite was so disturbed by this activity as to call 911. Or that three police officers, using their judgment and training,decided to investigate this activity.
Here is Mr. Henson’s post on the subject. For all the progress our country has made with race relations, we still have a long way to go.