New York Times columnist Charles Blow on Saturday sounded off on racial disparities in police use of force after his son, who is black and a student at Yale, was reportedly held at gunpoint by university police.
So, my son, a 3rd year chem major at Yale was just accosted - at GUN POINT - by a Yale policeman bc he "fit the description" of a suspect...— Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) January 25, 2015
He was let go when they realized he was a college student and not a criminal ( he was leaving the library!) He's shaken, but I'm fuming!— Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) January 25, 2015
This is exactly why I have NO PATIENCE for ppl trying to convince me that the fear these young blk men feel isn't real #RacialBattleFatigue— Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) January 25, 2015
According to Blow, his son matched the description of a burglary suspect in the area, and a police officer drew his gun on the student without explanation and before asking for identification.
Blow said he has no problem with police stopping his son if he truly matched the suspect's description. His anger is over how the stop reportedly happened. He explained in a Monday column for the New York Times:
Why was a gun drawn first? Why was he not immediately told why he was being detained? Why not ask for ID first?
What if my son had panicked under the stress, having never had a gun pointed at him before, and made what the officer considered a "suspicious" movement? Had I come close to losing him? Triggers cannot be unpulled. Bullets cannot be called back.
Following the 2014 police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City, demonstrators around the country have taken to the streets to protest these types of encounters and the racial disparities behind them. A ProPublica analysis of the available (but limited) FBI data found police were 21 times more likely to shoot and kill black teens than white teens between 2010 and 2012.
The experience of Blow's son suggests no one, not even a Yale student with a prominent New York Times columnist for a dad, is immune to these types of encounters. Blow wrote, "I am reminded of what I have always known, but what some would choose to deny: that there is no way to work your way out — earn your way out — of this sort of crisis. In these moments, what you've done matters less than how you look."
Update: Yale University officials responded to Blow's column and tweets in an email to the campus:
Let us be clear: we have great faith in the Yale Police Department and admire the professionalism that its officers display on a daily basis to keep our campus safe. What happened on Cross Campus on Saturday is not a replay of what happened in Ferguson; Staten Island; Cleveland; or so many other places in our time and over time in the United States. The officer, who himself is African American, was responding to a specific description relayed by individuals who had reported a crime in progress. Even though the officer's decision to stop and detain the student may have been reasonable, the fact that he drew his weapon during the stop requires a careful review. For this reason, the Yale Police Department's Internal Affairs unit is conducting a thorough and expeditious investigation of the circumstances surrounding the incident, and will report the findings of that investigation to us. We, in turn, will share the findings with the community. We ask that you allow us the time needed to collect and examine the facts from everyone involved.