Trooper group wants black lawmaker to resign

Trooper group wants black lawmaker to resign
December 17
00:00 2015
Above: Submitted photo
This is a video still of Rep. Cecil Brockman’s Nov. 30 traffic stop by state troopers in Archdale from a patrol car dash cam. Brockman is a co-sponsor of an anti-racial profiling bill in the N.C. House.

By Cash Michaels

For The Chronicle

What first started out as a simple traffic stop involving one black state lawmaker and at least three white N.C. State Troopers, has now ballooned into an apparent statewide effort, led by the State Troopers Association, to force the lawmaker to resign from office.

In the midst of the fallout, legitimate questions about why it indeed took three troopers to rush to what was just a seatbelt violation, why didn’t troopers know how to run legislative license plates, who tipped off a Charlotte TV station about the incident, and what, if any, political implications does the incident have?

State Rep. Cecil Brockman [D- Guilford] – who was a primary sponsor last March of a bill titled, “Prohibit Discriminatory Profiling,” along with fellow Democratic representatives Rodney Moore, Jean Farmer-Butterfield and Graig R. Meyer – admitted Monday afternoon that he “ … was wrong for not having worn my seat belt” when he was stopped by the State Highway Patrol on Main Street in Archdale on Nov. 30.

“It was a moment of deep frustration that I could have handled better,” the first-term High Point representative wrote on his Facebook page Monday. “However, having traveled less than a mile down the road, I was pulled over by not one, but three state troopers. I was treated with suspicion about my identity and accused of stealing my own car. All of this was due to a heightened sense of threat felt by the troopers. The heart of my issue with this incident lies with being treated with suspicion and being seen as a threat for no other reason I can figure than being black.”

However, that admission of wrong didn’t stop an outraged Sgt. Danny Jenkins, president of the N.C. Troopers Association, from blasting Rep. Brockman Monday on the group’s website, saying that his behavior during that traffic stop, and “ … [state] House tag does not allow you an entitlement to break our laws.”

“It is shameful for someone of your position to accuse these officers of treating you poorly,” Sgt. Jenkins continued, “ … as they were only doing their job, and the video clearly shows that the officers were polite and respectful to you the entire time. Sir, your conduct during this traffic stop would make even your supporters question your honesty and integrity. If you cannot be civil and honest about a simple traffic stop, how can the people you represent trust anything you say or do?”

After his statement under a section titled “Call to Action,” Sgt. Jenkins continues on, “ …that [Brockman’s] accusations are lies.”

“I am calling for all of our trooper and law enforcement supporters to demand his resignation,” Jenkins wrote. “He falsely accused a trooper of mistreating him when he was clearly attempting to use his position as a lawmaker to bully the trooper into not issuing a ticket. Is this the type of person that N.C. needs in the State house? I think not. Please share this status to spread then (sic) word.”

Jenkins finishes his missive with, “Let’s make him famous.”

On that same page is “Contribute to N.C. Troopers” and a donate button.

According to news reports, in 1996 the Troopers Association “ … agreed to a court order requiring the caller to tell you he or she is a paid solicitor and that the group is not affiliated with the State Highway Patrol,” reported WRAL –TV in July 1999, adding that none of the funds goes to the State Highway Patrol.

The raw video of the Nov. 30 traffic stop in Archdale from the patrol car dash-cam shows the first-term Democrat from High Point acting annoyed when he is asked for his license and registration (Brockman hands over his license, but indicates that he doesn’t have the car registration) by Trooper J.D. Allred, and then telling the trooper that he is a state legislator, apparently hoping that he’ll be released with just a warning.

“I just think it’s amazing that you can really write a ticket to a state representative who was literally at the [bank] just to here and that you guys literally think that this is any type of, I don’t know what you guys think this is doing. This is very frustrating,” Brockman is heard saying from behind the driver’s seat.

Another trooper is seen standing on the passenger side of Rep. Brockman’s vehicle looking inside and watching the driver carefully.

Interestingly, none of the three troopers knew how to run Brockman’s N.C. House issued license plate for a positive identification, having to refer to the vehicle identification number (VIN) inside the driver side windshield instead.

The video – which had two minutes of dead audio during Trooper Allred’s conversation with Brockman – also showed the representative charging that he would have been treated differently if he were a white legislator.

“I’m very pissed off. I think if I was a white representative that you guys would’ve been like ‘ok, sorry sir.’”

The trooper, who has been even-tempered and professional up until this point, exhibits apparent exasperation in rejecting the charge, telling Brockman that race had nothing to do with why he was stopped. Trooper Allred continues that because the representative wouldn’t pull over right away, he called for extra backup as a precaution.

A state highway patrol spokesperson said the extra backup call is standard for “safety reasons.”

In published reports, Rep. Brockman has said, “This is the same excuse that we hear from law enforcement every single time an innocent black male gets shot and killed. The response by the law enforcement is they felt threatened.”

Politically, State Republicans have salivated hanging Rep. Brockman out to dry for the incident.

N.C. Republican Party Chairman Hassan Harnett joined the political fray, issuing a statement saying, “Our state troopers put their lives on the line every day and deserve more respect (including from our state’s elected officials). Even if it means reaching deep within himself, Rep. Brockman should apologize to the troopers immediately.”

And within minutes of the dash-cam video being aired on WBTV Saturday, state Rep. Justin Burr, the GOP representative from Albemarle, tweeted that Brockman “ … should be ashamed of his behavior and accusations. Those state troopers were just doing their jobs.”

Rep. Burr is the brother of the Highway Patrol’s legislative liaison Jarrett Burr, to whom Brockman complained after the incident. There is speculation that WBTV was tipped off allegedly because of this connection, and immediately filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the tape as a result.

Since Gov. McCrory’s Republican administration took office, media organizations have complained that it has taken months, not days, for FOIA requests to be granted, adding further to the speculation that the Republican response has been quite coordinated.

Online, supporters of the troopers blasted Rep. Brockman, saying that his behavior was wrong and he had no business using his legislative position to get out of being ticketed for a seatbelt violation.

African-Americans weighing in agreed that what Brockman did was wrong, especially not wearing his seatbelt during the annual “Click it or Ticket” campaign. They also agreed that he was wrong in his demeanor. But it still troubled many that it took three troopers to be involved in the traffic stop, especially given documented evidence that North Carolina law enforcement are more likely to stop young black males than anyone else on the road, but find more illegal contraband during white traffic stops.

And they wholeheartedly disagreed with calls for Rep. Brockman to resign, saying that all he needed to do was just apologize for his actions.

“No, he shouldn’t resign,” posted Steve Harrison on Facebook Tuesday, “… and somebody from the Trooper’s Association needs to explain why a seatbelt violation (if they even noticed beforehand) is grounds for a reckless high-speed chase for a block and a half. The trooper driving almost smacked a pickup truck in his haste to run down the “suspect.”


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