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Friday, August 29, 2014

Papers Please? St. Paul Cop Harassed Black Man Waiting For His Kids for ID, Caught on Tape

by Ed Krayewski

While voter identification laws are a hot button issue in national politics, those laws aren't usually discussed in the broader context of identification requirements in various aspects of everyday life.  For starters, border patrol agents dozens of miles away from an international border ask for identification purportedly to root out illegal immigrants. Identification is required at the doctor's office, for increasing amount of medication, at the airport, on trains and now even for some interstate bus trips, for renting a car, getting into most government buildings, and so on in that manner. A mere fifteen years ago much of this may have seemed unthinkable.
So while the debate over whether voter ID laws are effective or whether they infringe on the right to vote (which ought to be universal given citizenship, which should be based on residency and necessary and proper paperwork) continues, it misses the point that citizens and non-citizens alike who don't have identification have a harder time accessing all kinds of goods and services, government and otherwise, often due to government regulations and edicts.
This is not just an issue of taking a bus instead of flying, as former homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano once suggested for those tired of the security theater at the airport. And a bus is increasingly not an option either. In Houston Representative Barbara Jackson Lee (D) lauded the Department of Homeland Security sending TSA agents onto local buses!
Eventually it becomes about the freedom of movement at the most basic level. Witness this interaction between an officer and a man who told them he was waiting to pick up his kids from the local charter school. Note how quickly it escalates despite the man's calm demeanor, all over a demand to produce identification:
Minnesota City Pages identified the man, who spoke to them, as Chris Lollie. He was arrested for "disorderly conduct" and "obstructing the legal process," and was charged with those crimes as well as trespassing. They were, unsurprisingly, all dropped. Police insist they were dealing with an "uncooperative male refusing to leave" and said there were no complaints filed after the incident (many incidents of police brutality can go unreported), which happened in January but video of which only emerged online this month. The YouTube user who posted claims the cellphone was seized for six months (likely the length of time before charges were dropped and the "investigation" ended).

If it's a war zone out there for cops, it's the "civilians" that often seem most at risk.
Sensible rules of engagement for cops, as well as effective disciplinary processes, are needed to attempt to root out behaviors and attitudes like those of the officer's in the video.

Ed Krayewski is an associate editor of Reason 24/7 at where this article first appeared.
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