Last week, a case that raises questions about how African-Americans are treated in traffic stops was resolved in court.

In September, a young man was driving down Interstate 45 with his girlfriend. They were going out to dinner in Texas City. The young man was one of those rare people who don’t speed on I-45.

It was dark. A state trooper pulled behind the young man’s car, emergency lights blazing. The young man looked at his speedometer and concluded the officer couldn’t be after him. He went on for almost two miles.

When the young man finally pulled over in La Marque, the trooper had his gun out of the holster. Other officers arrived as backup.

The young man was cuffed and put down, face first, on the ground. The young woman in the passenger’s seat was naturally frightened.

When things calmed down, it gradually became clear to the young people why they had been stopped. The car had paper tags from the dealer. The tags were wrapped in plastic. On the coast, condensation builds up inside the plastic. The officer couldn’t read the tags.

There was no other suggestion of bad behavior. No speeding. No missed turn signals. Nothing illegal in the car.

Since this stop, the story has been often told. It’s not an isolated story. Perhaps you recall seeing a piece in the newspaper about two young women, again African-American, who were stopped in La Marque, accused of rolling through a stop sign.

As you might suspect, white and black people don’t necessarily hear the story of the stop on I-45 in the same way.

You can get a sense of how perspectives differ when people, especially older men, tell stories about their own encounters with the law when they were young. Some older men, mostly white, tell stories about getting a lecture from a kindly cop and being sent home. Others, mostly black, don’t tell heartwarming stories.

If you listen carefully, you can see why people come to different conclusions about when it’s appropriate for an officer to draw a gun. It’s hard to see privilege in the unequal treatment if you only consider yourself. If you really listen to the stories of others, though, you begin to wonder.

The story about the traffic stop on I-45 has been examined. People reviewed video. Police officers and concerned citizens have talked reasonably. But there is no agreement about the part of the story that takes us from condensation on a car tag to a drawn gun.

That’s what officers are trained to do. Should it really be that way?

Last week, the case went to municipal court.

It would have been nice if the judge had given the young man a lecture about paying attention to flashing lights and sent him home. Instead, the young man was fined $350. That’s two weeks’ pay for a college student working part-time.

That’s justice — the way the system works here, in our community, today.

I think it’s a problem. What about you?

Heber Taylor, a retired newspaperman, lives in Galveston.

(43) comments

Pete Nanos

This is typical of most of these stories. You gloss over the fact that the young man failed to follow proper protocol where it concerns the law. He ignored flashing lights , not for such a short time as you would like to imply, but for long enough to have the pursuing officer call for backup. Have black people been roughed up by police? Yes. Have white people been roughed up by police? Yes. The best way to avoid this is to learn what to do when you are being pursued and what to do when asked to follow instructions. The place to argue your case or become confrontational is in front of a judge, not on the streets. Quit creating a problem where one doesn't exist. Instead educate your children on how to properly conduct themselves. Your condoning improper behavior doesn't help anyone.

David Smith

So..you ignore flashing lights behind you for 2 miles.. and its LEOS fault?.. you want to help this situation? Write an article on the lost art of complying

Jack Cross

With race dominating the national dialog. many will look at this as racism playing into this and that is sad. I have many times had flashing light behind me and said to myself, oh hell what have a done, sometimes, nothing, the officer just wanted to get around me, other times i was not speeding, but had a tail light out. Any human with an ounce of brain is not going to travel 2 miles with flashing lights behind him,
I put myself in the officers shoes, thinking about walking up to a car at night, not knowing who was in the car or what they were up to, it is reasonable for the officer to suspect that this individual was resisting arrest and since he was resisting, some crime may be involved and he may have a gun.
In all these incidents involving the police, there is one thing missing from the discussion and that is "Obey the police" in every one of these deaths that has caused so much racial divide, if the individuals would have simply obeyed the police all of them would been alive today. Wouldn't any responsible parent tell their kids, regardless of race, obey the police and if you thought the police were out to get you, that is even more reason to obey the police.
Yes, the take down may seem excessive, but the young man brought this on himself.
I have to give the trooper a pass on this. Approaching an car at night that refused to stop is potential danger that the young man himself created.

Emile Pope

Tired of the false narratives. The first is that police shootings are because people didn't obey the police. Tamir Rice was shot less than a second after the cops arrived. Philandro Castile was told to produce his licence and shot when he went to get it. The second is that people are shot because of bad parenting. The inference that Black parents don't teach their children to obey the police is wrong and insulting. Stereotypes like this only makes the problem worse...

Carlos Ponce

Emile, the police investigators, judges, grand juries and juries know far more about each case than your simplistic narrative. Sad that each man was killed but the police in the Tamir Rice shooting were no billed by a grand jury. A lot can happen in a mere minute. Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of all charges in shooting Castile. His jury was racially diverse including two African-Americans. What do you know that they didn't? Were you empaneled as a juror? Did you listen to and observe each witness including the dash cam? Did you listen to the judge explain the letter of the law pertinent to this case? You didn't, they did.

Emile Pope

"If you are comfortable with my oppression then you are my oppressor"
A. Phillip Randolph

Carlos Ponce

Nobody is comfortable with oppression, Emile. But to cry "oppression" every time belittles real oppression.

Emile Pope

"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."
Martin Luther King

Carlos Ponce

Amen, Dr. King! I hope Emile takes a lesson from what you said.

Pete Nanos

Insulting? Well, so be it. I'm insulting you for not properly educating your children. If that's what it takes, that's what it takes. You don't run from the police and you do as you are told when you are stopped. I don't care what color you are.

Kelly Naschke

More of Heber’s typical liberal drivel. Let’s change this scenario to where the “young man” sees flashing flashing lights behind him...immediately pulls to the side of the road....turns the hazard lights on...and the car off...rolls down his window...puts both hands on the wheel....lets the officer know his license and insurance are in his back pocket....and waits for instructions from the officer. Different outcome than NOT pulling over for two miles??? You bet. Like I said...typical Heber drivel.

Carlos Ponce

"He went on for almost two miles."
If traveling at a rate of about 60mph then it took him two minutes to respond to flashing lights. Really? Maybe if he had pulled over immediately he would have just been lectured, maybe not. We'll never know. Every new driver is taught to obey traffic laws and follow a police officer's directives. Non-compliance leads to bad things. The lad received a lesson at a $35o cost. Has he learned his lesson or has he learned to play the victim. "Poor pitiful me. The police asked me to pull over when they flashed their lights and I did pull over - eventually. Why was I ticketed? It must be because of my race, gender identity, age but not because I did not immediately comply. It took almost two minutes to find those brakes."
Grow up! Get real!

Emile Pope

Pulling someone over for having condensate on their tags? Surprised they didn't call SWAT. It this is such a common occurrence then why were they pulled over in the first place? Profiling followed by a pretense stop. Of course some people won't understand because it would never happen to them. Thank you Heber for a great article...

Doyle Beard

First Emile the article said the tags were unreadable. that immediately creates a problem.profiling I doubt it since it was dark. What storydid you read?

Carlos Ponce

My brother, a Hispanic was pulled over in Galveston County a few years ago because his truck plates were not legible and had to be cleaned. A white person was pulled over because a spilled can of paint in his truck bed made his rear plate unreadable.
Sounds like enforcing the laws.

Emile Pope

I meant pretext stop. If this is a common problem why did he pull them over? How many times have you heard of someone being pulled over for this reason? Condensate is water, which is clear. So how does it being on paper tags make them unreadable? So what law did they break and what was the solution? I doubt that they had a portable blow dryer to remedy the "problem" . And if you think that you can't tell the race of drivers at night you are mistaken...

Doyle Beard

sounds like the plastic fogged up which could have easily been the case. Pule over for unreadable plate is not uncommon.

Emile Pope

Wrong. How many times have you heard of people being pulled over for water condensate on their dealer tags? Is this the only car sold that had plastic over the tags? It's put there to protect the paper tags but this person decided that water on it was justifiable cause to stop and detain the driver. Nice to know that the Condensate Police are on the job...

Jack Cross

Right Doyle, he was not pulled over because of condensate behind his tags, He was pulled over for two reasons.
1. Tags not readable.
2. Refusing to stoop
That is why the judge correctly fined him.
But why was the tags covered up?

Emile Pope

1. Because water was on them? He really must have cleaned up during Harvey...
2. Is that the same as waking someone to give them a sleeping pill?

Doyle Beard

Again Emile what article did you read. The one I read never mentioned water or condensation on the plates.

Emile Pope

"When things calmed down, it gradually became clear to the young people why they had been stopped. The car had paper tags from the dealer. The tags were wrapped in plastic. On the coast, condensation builds up inside the plastic. The officer couldn’t read the tags."

Jack Cross

Stop (Correction)

Carol Dean

I agree, Mr. Beard!

David Smith

MLk also said he had a dream .... to live in a world one day where he would be judged by THE CONTENT OF HIS CHARACTER.. not the color of his skin... That day has been here for a long time now.

Emile Pope

Since when?

Mark Aaron

This was a poor example to cite as an equivalence to what Black people deal with. Driving for 2 miles with lights flashing behind you is far from normal and nothing like what is experienced by people stopped for "driving while Black," like what happened to Sandra Bland.

Emile Pope

Deciding to pull someone over for having "condensate" on their dealer tags is the problem. Since the storm, there have been many cars bought with tags being prepared the same way. So why don't we hear about more (or any) stories about people being pulled over for "condensate plates"? The cop made a pretext stop. If they hadn't done this then none of this would have occurred. So the question isn't about the actions of the driver but why were they pulled over in the first place. Stopping someone for "condensate plates" isn't just a normal traffic stop. It's the problem...

Carlos Ponce

Emile, you may not hear of people being pulled over for illegible plates but I have. But they pulled over when they saw the flashing lights. And these tags are attached to cars. Do you believe cars have a racial component to them?
You just don't get it. A person is supposed to pull over when they see flashing lights. Waiting two miles later is not a good idea.
Flashing lights - pull over. It's that simple.
Drop the gun order from the police - drop it, even if it's a toy.
Don't move order from the police - you don't move.
I wonder what Galveston police officer Emile Pope (may he rest in peace) would think about your attitude about non-compliance or delayed compliance with police directives.

Emile Pope

You should open a landfill...Tell me of the many times people were pulled over for having condensate on their dealer tags. Of the thousands of cars destroyed by Harvey and having to be replaced by dealer tags, there must be many occurrences of drivers being pulled over for "condensate plates". So tell me and everyone else of these events.

Carlos Ponce

Get over it Emile. It happens. And it is an occurrence I have heard several times and not just recently. But why ignore the flashing lights for TWO MILES? SHEEESH!

Emile Pope

No you haven't...

Carlos Ponce

Sorry Emile, I can only report what I know is true. But it seems like you can't handle the truth because it does not fit your false narratives.

Kelly Naschke

Because maybe they actually pulled over as instructed and didn’t lead the cop on a two mile chase?

Kelly Naschke

Get back under your bridge you pathetic troll.

Pete Nanos

Emile, Colin Kapernick and people who cite recent events, will always have an ax to grind because they listen to the first thing they hear and run with it. " Hands up, don't shoot" a total fabrication, but that doesn't matter to Emile, he heard what he wanted. The Baltimore police incident, another total lie, but Emile heard what he wanted. I could cite others, but what's the point. Emile will always take the side against police........always. Do police make mistakes or act in bad faith? Yes they do, but that's the exception , not the rule. Taylor is a rabble rouser. Quit reading the garbage he spews and you will be far happier.

Kimberley Jones Yancy

You know I have read these comments and they are interesting. However I am glad this young man was not killed in this case. $350 can be paid but once you are dead that’s it. He can live another day. Praise the Lord!

Kelly Naschke

People get pulled over for license plate infractions EVERY day. It’s usually for not having a front plate. Same net result....you get pulled over. Your entire defense and rationale avoids the true issue here Emile..,the guy failed to pull over for TWO MILES. What don’t you understand about that? The guy could have been so white that he was translucent....and STILL have been hassled by the POlice. Your making this a racial issue and not a rational issue takes your cause backward...NOT forward.

Kelly Naschke

As Carlos stated...it takes about two minutes to cover two miles...and the entire time the cop is wondering...why isn’t this guy stopping?....is he wanted?...is he armed?....are there drugs in the car?...is the driver intoxicated?..,,,meanwhile the cops adrenaline starts pumping....he calls for backup....
Sounds like the idiot that didn’t pull over when the stop was initiated, created his own problems.

Carol Dean

Would Emile be this upset if it was a white couple? I doubt it. It probably wouldn't have ever made the news. Something about it is okay for Emile to have a double standard when it aides his views. I am still laughing!

Keith Gray

The story stated it was dark... how did the Trooper know what color of a person's skin was inside. Working nights for 8 year... and a lot of overtime, I've exceeded the speed limit on a few occasions. As I saw the lights in the far distance behind me, I pulled over, turned on my dome light, put my keys on the dash, and put my hands on the steering wheel with the window open. Ready... not rocket science... unless that officer got a call and went right passed me with lights and sirens going. But that's just me... and what my Daddy taught me.

Robert Ray

[sad] To be honest, I actually never saw where the couple's skin color was mentioned and I read the article thinking how this traffic stop related to the others the author mentioned before realizing the color was *implied* by the title. So if you read this thinking the couple's color is white, you might find a perfectly reasonable traffic stop. Why should the skin color matter? Ya know, I'm white and I've been treated like this couple was when I made a stupid decision to not stop right away, even after putting on my hazards and slowing down while I found a safe place to pull over. I am so tired of this crap of saying it's a color thing. You gotta ask, did you do something that got the cop's attention? Did you act respectfully when the cop got to you? Did you obey immediately the cop's orders (including pulling over for the emergency lights - more on this in a moment)? Did you treat the cop the way you want to be treated? (Here's a hint, the last one is the most important one... it's the one that will decide how the stop will be remembered.) when you can answer yes to all of these and still have a bad stop, then you might have a reason to complain.

Oh... and about those annoying flashing lights... far too many people on the island just seem to ignore them... when did the law change from "pull over and yield the road to vehicles with flashing emergency lights" to "ignore the lights and just continue being a jerk". Those emergency lights are not just on cop cars, but also on ambulances and fire trucks and must be obeyed as well. Remember, one day they may be coming to help you when minutes count. Do you want them stuck behind someone who didn't pull over when that happens?

Carol Dean

Do you remember when we used to pull over to the side of the road when a funeral procession was passing? I fear that people in general have just lost the definition of the word RESPECT. Color has nothing to do with respect!

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