OP-ED: Student Fears for Life During Routine Traffic Stop


By Hassan Russell, Laney College student

The shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO has brought to light that this situation is happening all over America.

If an 18-year old young man can be shot down in the middle of the street with his hands up, then we have to realize that this is not a matter of race at all, but a question of whether or not the youth can survive the militarization of our local police force?

I was raised in Oakland in a neighborhood known as “Funktown,” and there are only two times I can remember being scared for my life – both while being pulled over by the Oakland Police Department.

I remember it like it was yesterday. After picking up two of my friends in my red Buick Park Avenue, I drove one of my friends to pick up some mail at his stepmother’s house.

We passed a police car at an intersection, and it quickly got behind us.

The police followed us until we pulled up to our destination, then turned the lights on us. Coming out of the loud speaker, I heard one of the officers say, “Turn the car off now!”

I did and immediately put my hands up and told my friends to do the same. “Throw the keys out the window,” the officer said.

I thought this was a little odd for a routine traffic stop, but I threw the keys out the window.

A police officer opened my door and pulled me out. I asked him, “What is the reason for this?”

He replied, “We’ll get to that in a moment.”

He pulled me out of the car and handcuffed me. I noticed at least 30 police officers with assault rifles, shot guns, and handguns all pointed at me.

My heart dropped to my stomach. What I thought was going to be a routine traffic stop was something completely different in their eyes.

As he went through my pockets, I could feel every gun barrel and pair of eyes pointed at me with no compassion. The only thing I could mutter was, “Wow!”

After pulling my wallet out of my back pocket, the officer went back to his car. By now, the whole neighborhood was outside. It was one of the most embarrassing times of my life. One of the neighbors yelled out, “Those are good boys!”

It was the truth. This was nothing more than a case of “driving while Black” where we were racially profiled due to the car I was driving and the color of our skin.

Once the officers ran my name and discovered that I had a clean record, I was unhandcuffed and we were released.

“We don’t even get an apology or nothing?” I asked the officer. He ignored me, got in his car and drove away.


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