Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Stamford Police Terrorize Stamford Resident

If you don’t subscribe by RSS to the Stamford Advocate like I do, you might not know that Stamford Police stormed two Metro-North trains on Saturday and pulled off two young black men, in handcuffs. In typical cool Stamford style, the police captain told reporters, “We're right in the middle of something.” Weird! Exciting! I thought. Another post I’m working on (about extremes of rich and poor in Stamford) is taking forever, so I thought, I’ll post about the train station to tide me over, and I’ll call it “Crime? Train Station Drama.”

A Dec. 9 article filed at 7:18am Tuesday describes how police stormed the train— with guns. Passengers panicked when the train pulled up and they saw a crowd of police officers. The train was headed for Grand Central, and I’m sure it was packed with shoppers and families headed in for a fun day in the city.

Before I posted, I checked my RSS feed again and saw a Dec. 11 article titled “No charges filed after Metro-North train search”. When I read that article, my take on the “drama” changed.

What the first article didn’t say is that before they arrested the two men on that train, the cops stormed another train. On that train, again, cops were shouting and waving guns, passengers were screaming, and police ordered a man to face the train doors. The article describes how the man was so terrified by the guns pointing at him that he fainted. That man was Martin Speight, a Stamford resident, and Martin Speight was the wrong guy.

When I read this, first I was sad. Speight’s friend said Speight was so scared that he could hardly follow directions to keep his hands up- and that he was sobbing. Can you imagine taking the train home, or to see friends, and all of a sudden cops are screaming and pointing guns at you? I don’t think I’d ever be the same.

I also felt outraged. A passenger on that train said cops had mentioned a homicide suspect wearing a blue sweatshirt and a black coat, which was what Speight had on. HM. Really? That’s exactly what I wore to chorus rehearsal last night. And, I was probably wearing that on Saturday.

I guess cops were right to grab Speight. He matched the description and cops may have thought he was armed. However, if you ask me, the description “wearing really common outfit and black,” in a city where 15 % of residents are black, isn’t good enough.

What really makes me angry is that police did not even know the name of the man they had wrongly accosted. I’d certainly expect the first incident to be included in the official police report, and I’d sure as hell expect the traumatized person’s name to be in it. It’s a matter of respect. It’s a matter of acknowledging that if you mess up, and terrorize your own residents, you should at least know the relevant facts. Thank God for reporters. It seems like the police didn’t bother. I’m glad reporters did.

Speight is talking about filing a complaint. I think that’s the right thing to do. If that happened to me, and cops didn’t make a big deal about apologizing, I’d want something done. Would you want an apology if that happened to you? I’d want more than an apology, especially after I didn’t get one. I’d want publicity that tells the city what happened to me, and tells the city that police have trouble identifying black suspects. Most African-Americans have black hair, so that variable is out. If you’re black, and the right height, and wearing a black coat, you’re screwed.

Our neighbors shouldn’t have to deal with that.

Here’s some text from the article, which I think is excellent, written by Advocate staff writer Zach Lowe:
Passengers said they were terrified when the armed officers boarded the train. Some yelled "Get down!" as others ducked for cover. Several passengers said officers spoke about a homicide suspect wearing a black jacket and a blue hooded sweatshirt. Passenger Marvin Speight of Stamford said he will file a complaint against the police officers who pointed a gun at him and ordered him to put his hands up because he matched the description. Speight, 28, sobbed as two or three officers ordered him against the train door at gunpoint, said Speight and another witness. The officers did not explain why they singled out Speight and never searched his bag.

Speight fainted and fell onto his back, said his friend, William Foster, who was on the train with him. Once Speight got to his feet, the officers explained why they had acted aggressively and let him go, he and Foster said. Foster said Speight was so intimidated by the guns he had trouble following orders and had to be reminded to keep his hands over his head.

"It was wrong," Speight said. "Even if they were doing their job, it was wrong. It was traumatizing, and it was an experience no one should have to go through." Speight said he has called the NAACP and Al Sharpton's National Action Network.

Police defended the operation and said officers were right to approach Speight if he matched the description of a suspect believed to be armed and dangerous. They could not confirm Speight's account or identify him by name, but said the officers followed regulations. "That would be appropriate under these circumstances," said Lt. Sean Cooney, a department spokesman.

One last comment: I like the word "approach" in the last paragraph. I hope the Stamford police never "approach" me, especially if they're looking for a white woman with brown hair.


Anonymous said...

Great article! Certainly this whole thing was glossed over on Saturday in a attempt to cover up some real racial and socioeconomic issues in this town. Stamford may start getting some interesting attention once this is grouped along with the RBS building noose incidents. Stamford is, as you have previously posted, very ethnically diverse and sometimes our residents (and it seems our city employees) seem to try to sweep these issues under the table. There obviously needs to be some sort of dialog going on to address these issues before things get out of hand and the good of Stamford is overshadowed by this kind of behavior.

Truly Blessed said...

Happy New year EVERYONE!

It has been quite a while since this incident has happened! Tonight I was just googling my name, so that I could view some of my work as a makeup artist on the internet. I came across THIS.... It just rekindled some harsh but scary memories. I really try not to let this get to me anymore, however it does pain me to know that things happen like this all the time and they go unattended.
I thank God, because I am truly Blessed to be alive today to tell this story. It was by Gods grace that I am here! Just when you think that stamford officers are for you... they laugh in your face, because it happened to me.....
I am so greatful to still be alive.

Stamford Talk said...

I'm sorry to rekindle bad memories, but I was pretty horrified by what I read about the incident and definitely felt strongly enough to write about it.
I'm glad you are doing OK, and I'm sorry that happened to you.

Anonymous said...

Fuck tha police I had my run in wit tha pigs a lot of times pulled over first time a gun ever ben pulled out on me over at southfeild park at tha beach wit a group of friends and some racist ass motha fucka called tha cops and said ther was a black male and spanish male just therw a body into tha ocean swat came down and mistreated us I think the only thing that saved us from being shot was the older white girls we where wit and my worst was I belive 2003 I'm watching game 6 of tha NBA finals lakers plaing pistons mommy asked me to go to tha store for a soda I end up going twice because I got tha wrong one and when went undercover pigs follow me into tha store and asked me 50 millinion question told me to come out side went out they asked me more questions asked me to come next dae car b4 I told them I ant going a got damn where wit them bc I ant do shit but buy a soda they grabbed me & I jumped back and then they therw me next to tha pissy ass dumpster wher tha mexicans piss all day long and jumped all over me put his fucking knee into my head I told chill I'm olny 17 and dae told me I was going to jail for assult on a officer someone told my mom I was getiing beat up buy tha cops and she came out yelling what tha hell are u doing to my son and his story chaged long story short filed a complant he wrote his bullshit report and made up fucking everything till this day I will never respect any law enforcement I try my best to evoid them and. Stamfod pd ant nothing butt bitch ass small town cops who ant bout shit I lived in east atlanta and they hood is real they don't play drug dealers are rich and belive me they blast at police when it come down to there money