Opinion: Sulaimon Brown is right

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘dreamsjung’

I’m gonna just let you recover from the mental discord that reading that headline will give you. Maybe it’ll help if you muse on the old saying that even a broken clock is right twice a day, though in the modern digital age it’s more like a broken clock is still useful as a paperweight.

Be that as it may, I wanted to say that I think Brown is right and I support his response to being pulled over by an unmarked police car. Brown says he initially cooperated but refused to get out of the vehicle when the plainclothes individuals asked him to do so.

“You guys pull up, you’re wearing all black. There were no sirens. Nothing…You expect me to get out of the car in the middle of the night? No.”

I say, good for you Brown. The practice of traffic stops by law enforcement who can’t easily be distinguished from someone who bought a $5 flashing light off the internet is a misguided and dangerous one. When I was growing up in Florida there were numerous occasions when criminals used different techniques to get people to pull over and robbed and killed them. Stories of people pretending to be cops in order to rape or rob turn up hits in the thousands on Google.

LegalMatch suggests someone concerned about an unmarked stop do exactly what Brown did – stay in the car and call 911. The local police force can certainly send over  a marked car; I haven’t seen a traffic stop on the side of the road that didn’t have 2+ patrol cars involved in I don’t know how long. Departments are well aware of the issues involved and several will confirm they avoid using unmarked cars for traffic stops if at all possible. According to a 1996 legal brief, DC “police regulations only allow plainclothes police to enforce traffic violations when they are “so grave as to pose an immediate threat to others.””

So here’s the only time  you’re likely to read this in the media: You should pay attention to Sulaimon’s example and follow it. Be careful.

UPDATE 4:43p: WaPo’s Mike DeBonis has placed the arrest report up on DocumentCloud and, as he says in his post about it, it seems to match Brown’s description of the events with only a minor difference. It’s unfortunate that the officers on scene seemed not to be acting in line with the policies purported in the 1996 document linked above, though it’s not clear Brown informed them he was dialing 911 – which, if you ever find yourself in that circumstance, you should be sure to tell the folks attempting to detain you. Personally I’d repeat it once I was on the call to 911 so it would be heard by 911 and recorded.

Well I used to say something in my profile about not quite being a “tinker, tailor, soldier, or spy” but Tom stole that for our about us page, so I guess I’ll have to find another way to express that I am a man of many interests.

Hmm, guess I just did.

My tastes run the gamut from sophomoric to Shakespeare and in my “professional” life I’ve sold things, served beer, written software, and carried heavy objects… sometimes at the same place. It’s that range of loves and activities that makes it so easy for me to love DC – we’ve got it all.


5 thoughts on “Opinion: Sulaimon Brown is right

  1. Spot on. On so many things, Sulaimon Brown is absolutely batshit crazy, but on this he was absolutely right. Don’t just ask to see ID, wait for a uniformed car.

    I do find it interesting he’s still on an expired Maryland License, I had thought he lived in DC, how else could he have run for mayor last year? Ward 9 ain’t in DC…

  2. The title captured my attention, and the message in the column is spot on.

    I can’t imagine being allowed to call 911 when being pulled over, but the point about being recorded while notifying the “officers” that you are calling 911 makes a lot of sense.

    Now – if we are to see this headline again in the future, it better be a doozy!

  3. I agree. In fact I’d take it one step farther and say the entire traffic stop stinks a little bit. A plainclothes policeman, in an unmarked car, part of the “crime suppression team” whatever that is, took it upon himself to pull someone over… for a broken headlight?

    I guess we really are in hazard county. This seems to be a pretty clear situation of profiling. A black guy in a Mercedes driving around late at night. Obviously, we need an excuse to pull him over.

    I see people run red lights, make illegal u-turns, generally do all sorts of actually unsafe things with police right there, all the time in DC. I can’t remember ever seeing a cop bother to stop someone for stuff like this. (Hence the reason people keep doing it, because the cops are a joke when it comes to traffic enforcement). Yet a broken headlight is a concern?

  4. I agree with Jamie. The traffic stop smells of harassment in the first place, and whether it was for DWB or a more specific political reason is an open and reasonable question in my mind.

  5. Let me just say, for the record, that despite my opinion of Mr. Brown based upon his behavior in public forums, I am willing to presume he is innocent and he should have his day in court.

    I should also say that it’s up to a jury to decide upon the veracity of the Police Report that was released. I, for one, give greater weight to it than I do to Mr. Brown. Perhaps if I was in a jury box, I might reach a different conclusion.

    First, it annoys me to no end that MPD has taken to wearing Battle Dress Uniform instead of the standard Metro Patrol Uniform. These fine men and women are role models for our community and I’d like to see them wearing collared shirts, belts, and pressed slacks… a very standard level of professional dress. BDUs should have a limited use for when the officers are on extended duty or there is some kind of crisis. It should not be considered an alternative daily uniform.

    However, BDUs do have proper police insignia and it isn’t unusual to see police officers wearing them. Perhaps Mr. Brown didn’t see the insignia in the dark because of his eyesight problems. In that instance, I agree, it is fair for him to call 911. However, he says in his version of the report that an officer did show up and did show him his credentials and Mr. Brown refused to comply because of what the 911 operator told him. It’s at this instance that I think Mr. Brown went too far.

    I urge people to use common sense when taking the precaution to request additional police assistance if you feel unsafe during a traffic stop. Making a “Federal case” out of something relatively minor will very quickly cause more problems than it prevents.