Citizen Green: Let us now condemn famous men

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Jordan Greenby Jordan Green

It’s not exactly the stuff of a blockbuster action movie.

At the 1:55 mark in the 15-minute dash-cam video, NC State Trooper JD Allred’s cruiser swings out into traffic on Main Street in Archdale. At 2:05 you can hear the cruiser’s siren activate and the vehicle accelerate. Around 2:20, Rep. Cecil Brockman’s black BMW comes into view and eight seconds later the cruiser is right behind the state rep’s car. After another 10 seconds, Brockman merges into the passing lane and keeps driving. As the trooper stays on Brockman’s tail, he appears to slow down and after 13 seconds pulls off onto a side road and comes to a stop.

Standing on its own, the tape — which was leaked to WBTV News in Charlotte — puts Brockman, a Democrat who represents District 60 stretching through urban portions of High Point and Greensboro, in a pretty bad light: Soon after Trooper Allred, who is white, approaches his window, Brockman mentions that he’s a state representative. Then seven minutes into the encounter, Brockman can be heard in the video saying, “I just think it’s amazing that you can really write a ticket to a state representative who was literally at the First Citizens Bank and traveled just to here and then you guys think this is doing any kind — I don’t know what you think you’re doing because this is very frustrating. I can’t even leave First Citizens Bank and have a simple mind lapse and you guys think it’s okay to write me a ticket. That’s amazing. I’m very dumbfounded and confused as to how you guys think you’re doing justice. We’re supposed to be partners together.”

The state lawmaker, who is black, continues: “I don’t get this. It’s like no kind of anything. And I think if I was a white representative, you guys would have been like, ‘Okay, I’m sorry, sir. Sorry about that.’”

WBTV published the video on Dec. 11. On Sunday, Sgt. Danny Jenkins, president of the NC Troopers Association, posted a “call to action” on the association’s Facebook page urging “all our trooper and law enforcement supporters to demand his resignation.

“He falsely accused a trooper of mistreating him when he was clearly attempting to use his position as a lawmaker to bully the trooper into not issuing a ticket,” the post continues. After sharing the lawmaker’s email and phone number, Sgt. Jenkins signs off: “Let’s make him famous.”

Rep. Cecil Brockman
Rep. Cecil Brockman

There’s more to the story than what the tape shows, Brockman says. He told me during a phone conversation on Monday that it was a mistake for him to bring his status as a state lawmaker into the conversation with Trooper Allred when he was trying to explain why he felt like he was being mistreated. Chalk it up to his anger getting the better of him and having trouble articulating himself, he said.

Although the video shows two troopers on the scene, Brockman contends that when he pulled over there were three units behind him.

“I was not driving erratically; I was not speeding,” Brockman told me. “I don’t think the threat level would be so high if I was a person of another color.”

Brockman also said his outburst at the end of the stop came after the troopers accused him of stealing his own car. That’s not in the video.

Around the 5-minute mark, Trooper Allred can be heard remarking from inside his vehicle that he doesn’t know how to run Brockman’s tag. Thirty seconds later the trooper returns to Brockman’s vehicle and can be seen checking the VIN number on his windshield and then speaking to him, but the audio stays in the trooper’s car instead of following him. That’s when Brockman says the trooper suggested he had stolen the car. Two minutes and 45 seconds of conversation between Allred and Brockman is unrecorded, but when the trooper returns the lawmaker’s license at the 9:52 mark, the audio picks up again.

“Any time a young, African-American man dies, the reason given is that the police say they feel threatened,” Brockman told me. “We have to have a discussion about the threat level. It’s three state troopers for a seatbelt violation? It’s not okay to ask a young, black man if they stole the car…. You have to have reasons for that. If a state legislator had tags stolen, then it might be understandable. Don’t profile me. Unfortunately, that’s what happened.”

I asked Jenkins if he thought it was appropriate for the troopers, who are employed by the state and work for the citizens, to intervene politically by calling for Brockman’s resignation.

“Troopers are citizens of the state as well as we’re taxpayers,” he said. “Troopers are held to a high standard of conduct, and if we’re going to be held to a high standard, I think everyone should be held to that same high standard of conduct.”

He also said, “If we don’t stand up and be the voice of reason, you would see a fine, young trooper being falsely accused and there would be no repercussions.”

That’s fine as far as it goes, but it’s important to note that Brockman wasn’t the one who went public with the episode.

Brockman said he was so upset about the way the stop was handled that he reached out to Jarret Burr, the legislative liaison for the NC Department of Public Safety. He asked to see the dash-cam video and to discuss the encounter. He never heard back from Burr, and the next he knew the video had been leaked to a TV station. The same day that the story aired, Rep. Justin Burr, a Republican lawmaker who is the brother of Jarret, tweeted, “Unbelievable. He should be ashamed of his behavior and accusations. Those state troopers were just doing their jobs.”

Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.