A black engineering doctoral student at Northwestern University is suing the City of Evanston and several Evanston police officers for use of excessive force, malicious prosecution, battery and conspiracy.
In October 2015, Lawrence Crosby was tucking some dislodged window molding in place before entering his car and departing for the nearby Northwestern campus. A woman called Evanston police saying that she thought Crosby was breaking into a car, but also said that she felt guilty because she might be racially profiling him. When Crosby drove off, she followed him in her own vehicle until Evanston police caught up with them and pulled Crosby over.
Crosby reported that he had seen the woman, and wondered if she suspected him of breaking into the car based upon racial bias. So when police pulled him over, Crosby exited the vehicle with his hands in the air, and tried to tell police that it was his car and that he had documentation. The police shouted at him all at once to get on the ground, and quickly tackled and arrested him. Since the car did belong to Crosby and he had no other violations, they couldn't charge him for an automobile-related crime, but they charged him with disobeying police officers and resisting arrest.
If you watch the video, and have a modicum of ability to put yourself in another person's shoes, you could understand that Crosby could have easily been confused and frightened by the police screaming at him, giving him no time to comprehend their orders to get on the ground. It's also clear that he was surrendering to police, and I believe what we see in the video is a man confused by an instantaneous and overwhelming escalation by the police.
Giving the police every bit of possible room for a favorable interpretation of events, charging Crosby with resisting arrest and disobeying orders is ludicrous. I know how the police operate. They were covering their asses, making a criminal out of a non-criminal because they roughed up an innocent man based upon a mistake. Mistakes happen, but they didn't have to charge him with crimes.
Fortunately, Crosby was acquitted of all charges at his criminal trial.
Here's the video of the incident, released this week.
When I was in college at Northwestern, a friend and I went to his father's local business late one evening to pick up some things his dad needed. Evidently, someone saw us enter the rear door of the business after hours and called the police.
When we stepped out the back door to leave, a half dozen or so police officers jumped out from behind dumpsters and, with guns drawn, ordered us to raise our hands, which we did immediately. They didn't all scream at once, they didn't rush us and tackle us, but they demanded to know what we were doing there. My friend explained, and they questioned us with our hands raised overhead. With guns still pointed, they demanded our ID's. Fortunately, my friend's name was the same as his father's, and the business bore his father's name. There was no shouting and no screaming to get on the ground. We weren't rushed and tackled. The police officers questioned us, listened and let us leave, not quite apologizing, but explaining that they were just doing their jobs to protect my friend's father's business. We were fine with that.
I'd probably feel quite differently about what happened, had the police all screamed at once, rushed and tackled us, and arrested us for resisting arrest. One additional difference between our incident and the one with Mr. Crosby is that we're white and he's black, and the white boys in that area were often assumed to be the children of well-heeled parents, possibly with clout. And back when our incident occurred, Mr. Crosby, as a younger black man, would likely have been seriously beaten before even being give a chance to prove that the vehicle was his. If you think racial bias plays no part in differences in how these incidents unfolded, I have a bridge for sale.