12/05/14 2:27pm
12/05/2014 2:27 PM

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

You wouldn’t want to see your teenage nephew’s life derailed. You’ve watched him grow up. You know he’s a smart kid with a ton of potential; he’s just run into some trouble at home lately.

At this point, an arrest for, say, buying a case of beer with a fake ID — technically a felony — could ruin his chances of getting into college.

Now imagine you’re a cop and that kid behind the wheel of the car you just stopped reminds you of your nephew — or son, or younger cousin. Maybe you try to do right by him.

I’ve benefited several times from what I’ve long called the “nephew” effect. Many of my friends have, too. We were often together when police would stop us back in the 1990s, whether it was for using a fake ID or some other stupid thing teenagers do.

There was one time we got pulled over, still under age, in a remote area upstate (don’t ask) and were questioned by two officers who found bottles of booze in our trunk. They scared us a bit, sure, but we weren’t arrested. We weren’t even ticketed. In fact — though maybe this might not have been the best call — they let us keep the booze.

I’ve often thought about these times in my youth and how fortunate I was. But at some point, I realized, I probably would have been arrested — I might even have a criminal record today — if I were black.

It appears I’m not alone in my thoughts.

After a grand jury declined to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the killing of Eric Garner, a profound conversation started in the social media world, specifically on Twitter. The site erupted with people using the hashtag #crimingwhilewhite to highlight posts about their own personal experiences as white people committing crimes and how their experiences with the cops differed from those of so many black people in the United States.

Here are some examples:

 

 

I also chimed in on Twitter, calling the leniency shown toward white people the “you remind me of my nephew” effect.

It’s just easier to understand and sympathize with someone who looks like you and your family members — maybe even resembles you as a young person. I think it’s fair to say that, growing up,most white cops didn’t have many black teenagers at their family parties or barbecues, so their experiences with them might be mostly negative.

Racism, conscious or unconscious, doesn’t end with policing. I know this firsthand from watching hours upon hours of arraignment proceedings in courtrooms throughout the region, mostly when I was a writer with the Daily News. In Suffolk County Criminal Court especially, the racism on display became a sort of sad running joke among the reporters as we observed black suspects being treated differently from white ones.

And the differences were stark.

“Speak up!” the judges barked at the scared black teenagers.

The white kids were often spoken to like wayward, well, nephews.

For example: “I really hope I don’t have to see you again here, Charles.”

In my experience, everyday white privilege has much more to do with human nature — and the occasional Police Benevolent Association card — than with money or powerful connections, though I don’t doubt the latter play a huge role in higher profile cases.

But here’s the thing: The type of common sense approach to policing that I experienced as a youth was not just better for me; it’s better for all of society. So long as no one’s getting hurt, keeping as many people as possible out of the criminal justice system is an overall benefit. Whether you share my opinions or not, I’d like to think I’m a productive member of society today. Same for my friends. My one buddy is a police sergeant. Another is a dedicated youth hockey coach. Two others each found success in the financial world.

Many young black kids don’t get the same breaks early in life that white kids do (or worse) and there’s no doubt that a few arrests as a young person can interfere with living productive, fulfilling lives as adults. Black or white, once you’re arrested or convicted of a crime, it’s hard to get any leniency during subsequent traffic stops.

From slavery to terrorism to Jim Crow to discrimination in banking and real estate, inequitable policing remains today a very effective form of repression, even if it’s not deliberate.

If the rest of us can begin to acknowledge this problem now, it will only make for a better, safer society moving forward.

As Neal Taflinger wrote on Twitter as @NealTaflinger last Thursday:

“#CrimingWhileWhite is like introducing yourself at AA. Self-awareness is a huge hurdle, but it’s just the first step.”

Michael White, editorMichael White is the editor of The Suffolk Times and Riverhead News-Review. He can be reached at 631-298-3200, or email him at mwhite@timesereview.com.

11/26/14 3:39pm
Police Chief David Hegermiller says he would hope this part of the country is 'ahead of the curve' on race relations between police and minority communities. (Credit: file)

Chief David Hegermiller says he hopes this part of the country is ahead on race relations between police and minority communities. (Credit: file)

In the wake of riots that erupted in Ferguson, Mo. this week after a grand jury declined to indict the police officer who shot and killed a black teenager, Michael Brown, local police chiefs offered their take on the case — and longstanding racial tensions nationwide between police departments and minority communities.

Peaceful protests were also being held at cities across the U.S., though none in this area. (more…)

11/21/14 10:00am
11/21/2014 10:00 AM
(File photo by Jennifer Gustavson)

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson, file)

Police chiefs and other top brass from agencies across the East End met this week to share information with one another on local gang activities during a meeting called by the Suffolk County District Attorney.

The three-hour meeting in Riverside Wednesday follows last month’s gang shooting in a residential area of Southold, after which now five alleged members of MS-13 attacked two men from a rival gang with guns and a machete.

That incident, followed by much local and regional media coverage, has brought attention to the growing problem of gangs on the East End. (more…)

11/07/14 5:19pm
11/07/2014 5:19 PM
(Credit: Google Maps)

(Credit: Google Maps)

A pair of East End Drug Task Force raids carried out across Riverhead just one minute apart this morning netted six arrests for felony drugs offenses, Riverhead court officials and town police confirmed.

All six defendants — five of whom were arrested in the same apartment — were held on bail, authorities said.

At 6:17 a.m., authorities with the East End Drug Task Force executed a search warrant at 641 Doctors Path, Riverhead police said. Five people, including two locals, were arrested:

• Ebony Booker, 24, of Riverhead;

• Eric Ross, 22, of Flanders;

• Kotara Jackson, 32, of Mastic;

• Tashara Horsely, 19, of Mastic Beach;

• Marquis Miles, 21, who gave a North Carolina address.

All five people were charged with felonies for criminal possession of cocaine and arraigned in court Friday, a Riverhead Town court clerk said. Additionally, Mr. Ross was charged with misdemeanor drugs possession.

Ms. Jackson was remanded to jail without bail, according to the court. Bail for Ms. Horsely, Mr. Ross and Mr. Miles was set at $25,000. Ms. Booker was held on $5,000 bail.

One minute after the initial raid, at 6:18 a.m., police conducted a second search warrant sting at 415 Union Avenue, where Tywan Jones, 35, of Riverhead was arrested. He was charged with felony cocaine and weapons possession, a court clerk said.

He was held on $5,000 bail, the clerk said. All six defendants are due back in court on Monday.

Friday morning’s raid came two days after state and local police swarmed a house on Lewis Street, arresting three people, including one Riverhead man.

A Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

psquire@timesreview.com

10/24/14 8:00am
10/24/2014 8:00 AM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Several bullets pierced windows following this East Avenue shooting in 2013, though no one was hurt.

Several bullets pierced windows following this East Avenue shooting in 2013, though no one was hurt. (Credit: Carrie Miller, file)

Two shootings within two days rattled the North Fork last week, though police said the incidents are rare, especially in Southold Town.

Suspects have been caught in both cases. The four men (one from Aquebogue) who allegedly attacked two other men in Southold last Tuesday have been indicted by a grand jury on felony assault charges. Authorities say a fifth suspect may also have been involved. (more…)