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End Profiling in Bloomington-Normal Now!

Submitted by Kelby Cumpston

The following story was written by Michelle Cooks (Managing Director of Feed the Need in W. Bloomington).

On Thursday, September 8th 2011, a black male driving a 1999 Lincoln Towncar was stopped by Normal Police on Main Street. The driver was not speeding or driving erratically. He had not been drinking or using drugs. In fact, he was delivering a microwave to a lady that didn’t have a stove.

When the officer approached, his first question to the driver was “Is this your car?” The driver replied that it was and asked why he had been stopped. The officer reportedly replied, “I would have pulled you over anyway, but your driving permit is expired.”

The driver explained that he had receive a letter from the Secretary of State Safety and Financial Responsibility Section that he had met the financial responsibility requirements, and was cleared for reinstatement. Unfortunately for the driver, the letter was not in his car. The officers agreed to let a second party bring the letter to the scene and said he would be released.

When the second party, a black female, arrived at the scene to get the driver’s house key, the officers said they had made a mistake and their lieutenant said the driver had to be arrested, charged with a felony, and his car had to be impounded. He was taken to McLean County Jail, incarcerated over night, and his car was towed away by Joe’s Towing.

It’s important to note that the officers said this was because the driver had a DUI in 2009.

Since 2009 the driver has been clean and sober, renewed his Christian Walk, became an entrepreneur business owner of a local convenience store, and created a volunteer group to help the needy in West Bloomington. In fact, he was delivering a microwave to a client at the time he was stopped.

Yes, his permit was expired, but he had received a reinstatement clearance notice from the Secretary of the State which he mistakenly thought allowed him to drive legally.

A felony conviction for this black man who has turned his life around and works everyday to help others? This felony would not only destroy the progress he’s made personally, but it would destroy any hope of continuing his store and his organization to help the needy.

The irony of this story is that a day later on September 9th, three white males were in a local establishment touting their luck that they had been stopped by Normal police while driving and each drinking open 40oz beers. The officer reportedly saw them and said “I’m sure you guys haven’t had much, so we’ll just pour the beer out and let you go; just don’t let it happen again.”

* The man in this story is Brad Jones. Brad is the sole proprietor of Market St. Food Market and the founder of Feed the Need.Information on Feed the Need can be found here: www.feedtheneedblono.tumblr.com. Feed the Need has been host to many Common Action Free School events and offers space continually to the activist community. Brad needs to raise $500 by Wednesday if he wants to remain free from jail and without a felony on his record. The money will be used to get the supporting documents to secure his legal status from the State of Illinois. With this, the case will be dropped. He unfortunately faces a continually raising fee (last reported of $250) from Joe’s Towing and a $500 release for his car from Normal. Please share this story and link with anyone in the Bloomignton/Normal community. http://bradjonesresistance.chipin.com/brad-jones-resistance

* There has been a facebook group created that intends to spread throughout the town in order to allow others to keep up with the progress of this case and others that will have light shed on them. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/263515603682542/

* The next step after this is creating a new website dedicated to collecting and sharing stories of racial profiling within the community past or present. For those with stories yet lack the ability to access the web or expressive communication, a number is set up for them to call and verbally explain their story. The number is 408-753-5292. The story will be transposed by volunteer editors. If you are interested please keep posted with this group and encourage more people to join.

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Discussion

One thought on “End Profiling in Bloomington-Normal Now!

  1. About a year ago my boyfriend took the Amtrak down from Chicago to visit me. It was the middle of winter, cold and sleeting rain. When I arrived at the train station, I observed several police cars waiting. I thought nothing of it since me nor my boyfriend are not involved in any illegal activity. When my boyfriend’s train arrived we left the station and preceded back to my house. Within a matter of seconds we were pulled over by a fleet of Normal Police officers. This was not just one officer, but three, including a K-9 unit. When the officer approached he said he had pulled me over for not having headlights on in the sleeting rain. Okay, I thought, a simple mistake which could be remedied within seconds. However, the Normal police thought maybe because my boyfriend is Mexican-American we were drug traffickers. The officers made it clear that they thought we may have illegal materials in the vehicle and asked if they could search my vehicle. I was furious, I had moved to Normal just a month prior and was a student at Illinois State studying Special Education. As an education major, I am required to volunteer and work in the local schools. You can imagine my embarrassment as we were left to stand outside in the sleeting cold, near my school, and be harassed and searched for illegal drugs. I feel that my boyfriend was racially profiled due to the way they searched him. During the entire search the officers never once checked me for anything illegal. They did not check my pockets, purse, or school bag. However, they tore my boyfriend items apart. I would like to point out that I am a white female and my boyfriend is Mexican-American. During the search, I stayed as close to my vehicle as possible to be sure that they were unable to plant anything in my vehicle. I thought it was quite funny when all they found in his bag were food items that would be used later on that evening to prepare dinner. After the search, I was furious and upset, I was regretting a move to this town. I called my mother and explained what had happened and she encouraged us to file a complaint with the states attorney. We did file a complaint and I also spoke with the Normal Police chief. I am sure nothing happened to these officers. I am sure they are still up to no good. I actually had brought this issue up in one of my social injustices classes and I was shocked at the response of people who had also experienced racial profiling by the Normal Police department. The best advice I can give you all is to document all run-ins with this police department. I know that one of the girls in my class stated that her African-American boyfriend has been pulled over in Normal over 10 times in the last 5 years. After the third time he started asking for the officers cards. She had said he was planning on discussing this issue with a lawyer. I for one cannot wait to get out of this town. I do not want to live somewhere, where my boyfriend is harassed for being a certain race. I also do not want to be in a town where the upper management is tolerant of this kind of activity. I would recommend to all people that feel that they have been racially profiled by an officer of the law to report this activity to the states attorney as well as the local police department. Hopefully they will receive enough complaints and begin to think about whether or not the officers they have working for them are there to protect and serve or there to bully and intimidate.

    Posted by Jacqueline | September 20, 2011, 5:25 pm
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