Thursday, May 8, 2008

NAACP joins Dibor Roberts case

Family reasons (fatigue from chasing after a 2 1/2-year-old) kept me away from the rally for Dibor Roberts at Windmill Park in Cornville. But I'm happy to see that somebody rather more important than me did make it: the Rev. Oscar Tillman, president of the Maricopa County Chapter of the NAACP. He has asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the case and determine if Roberts's civil rights were violated in the course of her harrowing encounter with Sergeant Jeff Newnum.

Since the NAACP is now involved, I'll say that I have yet to see evidence that racism was at the root of Newnum's misconduct on the night of July 29, 2007. It could be a matter of bigotry, but I suspect that Newnum didn't even know that Roberts was black until he'd forced her car off the road.

More likely, I think, Newnum was acting in accord with the common mindset among police officers that says that police are due instant and complete obedience at all times by members of the public. We've seen evidence of that attitude repeatedly and, increasingly, on video, in instances where civilians have hesitated or -- worse -- asked questions during encounters with the forces of law and order. Police now act like occupation troops, and those of us lacking badges and uniforms are expect to be dutifully submissive as members of a subject population.

If I had to guess, I'd say that Sergeant Newnum flew into a rage over the fact that a mere civilian looked for a safe place to pull over rather than instantly coming to a halt along a dark, deserted road.

But it's beyond doubt that Dibor Roberts's rights were violated, and I'm encouraged to see an organization with the clout and resources of the NAACP come to her assistance.

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