A Texas journalism professor’s explosive charge that police hassled her for “walking while black,” a claim lodged in a guest column in the state’s biggest newspaper, doesn’t square with the videotape, according to the police chief.
The incident occurred when Dorothy Bland, dean of the journalism school at the University of North Texas, was taking a power walk on the morning of Oct. 24 in her neighborhood in the northeast Texas town of Corinth. In a column in the Dallas Morning News four days later, the former newspaper editor described her encounter with two local cops in terms that put the police in a bad light.
“Flashing lights and sirens from a police vehicle interrupted a routine Saturday morning walk in my golf-course community in Corinth,” Bland writes in her column. “Like most African-Americans, I am familiar with the phrase ‘driving while black,’ but was I really being stopped for walking on the street in my own neighborhood?
“Yes. In the words of Sal Ruibal, ‘Walking while black is a crime in many jurisdictions. May God have mercy on our nation.’”
“If we didn’t have the video, these officers would have serious allegations against them.”
– Police Chief Debra Walthall
Bland uses the column to lay out her case for allegations of being racially profiled claiming that she was not offered a reason.
“I guess I was simply a brown face in an affluent neighborhood,” Bland said in her column.
But dashcam video provided by Corinth Police shows Bland walking in the middle of the street, and captures the two police officers politely advising her to stay on the side of oncoming traffic, so she can see approaching cars. After viewing the footage, Corinth Police Chief Debra Walthall told FoxNews.com she was proud of the way her officers behaved.
“When I saw the video, those officers were nothing but professional,” she said. “[The incident] just didn’t lend itself to racial profiling.
“If we didn’t have the video, these officers would have serious allegations against them,” Walthall added. “It would be their word against hers. Every white officer that stops an African-American does not constitute racial profiling.”
The video shows the two police officers as they get out of their squad car, without turning on the siren as the professor claimed in her column. After telling Bland it would be safer to stay to the side of the street, one cop explains how a truck had earlier tried to pass her but she did not notice that she was in the way.
The officers ask Bland for her ID, which she did not have but she gave her name and date of birth after insisting that she take the officers’ picture “for safety’s sake.” The policemen obliged her request.
Walthall said the officers were correct to ask for identification because Bland had committed a Class C misdemeanor by impeding traffic.
“It is part of the standard procedure,” Walthall said. “There’s a legitimate purpose for doing so. She [Bland] did commit a misdemeanor. I want our officers checking ID’s on every person they encounter in situations such as this.
Bland did not immediately return requests for comment.