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Brandon and Saudia would have been in jail instead of on a plane headed for home if my wife and I hadn’t been there. Two brilliant students just finishing internships working for us. One was headed back to work for the governor of Indiana and the other into health care in her native Georgia.

With an early pre-dawn flight, we decided to give them a lift on the two hour drive up to the Portland airport.

Now this gets a little tricky to explain, it is a “you had to be there” kind of thing. But here is my best effort: I was driving and Adelaide, my wife, was sitting in the back seat directly behind me, while Brandon was sitting shotgun and Saudia directly behind him. In the dark of the night, we came up to a stop sign before turning left on to a main but poorly lit street leading out of town and to the Interstate. Off in the distance, parked under a tree, I noticed what I thought was a parked police car. I turned left, drove five or six blocks as the police car slowly approached from the rear and then suddenly hit its lights and siren at the same instant that another police car came screeching around the corner in front of us, hitting its siren. I pulled over.

I was completely fuddled and asked Brandon what I had done. I knew I hadn’t been speeding. He shrugged his shoulders and Adelaide said, “Maybe one of our brake lights is out.” Two police cars for that?

I didn’t think so. I watched as the policemen that pulled up behind us quickly jumped out of his car and put his hand on his holster, while the other car put on its brights and blocked the road in front. “Wow! What the Hell is this?”

The officer with his hand on the gun quickly approached me from behind, then seeing me, slowed as his hand dropped to his side. Now it was he who looked fuddled.

Nervously I asked him what I had done. In an odd, suddenly cautious and disappointed voice he said, “Never mind, you can go,” and blurted out an inaudible something to the other police car and briskly walked back to his. Both cars pulled out and disappeared into the night.

Brandon, Saudia, my wife and I just sat silent for a minute or so. I glanced over at Bradon and then back at Saudia. Neither would look at me and then I got it.

I just exploded. When we had turned left onto the main street the police car down the block only saw Brandon and Saudia in the windows. with two others in the dark shadows next to them. They saw a car full of black people.

Apoplectic would be the word to describe my reaction. I had never seen it up close and personal, but now that I had there was blood in my eyes. I wanted floggings or at least a couple of badges.

I ranted about how I was going to some friends in the local press and city council. When I finally came up for breath Brandon and Saudia just looked up and stared at me, and then as if in tag-team manner asked that I not do that.

I was now the student and to be taught by two who had clearly earned their PhDs.

They told me that if I did those things, it would only make it worse for other blacks. Their suggestion was simply this: “If you really want to do some good, if you want to be helpful, Richard, sponsor some community discussions on racism and tolerance. It will bring it out into the open and maybe strike a note with a few who will make such things less likely.”

The effect those two had on me came in level parts of shame and awe. Of course they would know, this was no first time for them.

Yes, some community discussion, it was the thing to do, the smart, effective, helpful, proper thing to do. But I was none of those things, and by noon I could be found in the mayor’s office unrolling an obscenity-laced review of the night’s events.

She, of course, promised to have a stern discussion with the Chief of Police who would make sure everyone was properly chewed out and made all the more hateful.

There were more important pressing things to do with my time than sponsor forums on race. Besides I had stirred up a nice angry pot and could now, like most of the self-righteous, point my countenance skyward and arrogantly walk on, confident that I had busted some ass and created peace on earth.

Score one for me on the Mutant’s team.

The other side of the coin is this — a defense that will upset some who read this. Not a defense of those policemen in my story, but one that knows they are not the norm. I could give you equally vivid emotional descriptions of the hundreds of ethical, honorable police officers slaughtered on America’s streets each year, putting their bodies between you and real evil.

It isn’t a desire to hurt others that generates generations of police cadets. It is a desire to do good, to serve, to be of value to their community, friends, and family and to feel value in themselves.

It isn’t unusual, it is normal for some in any profession to turn to the dark side, particularly in a profession that finds a few hundred of its number murdered on the streets every year.

Could it be that showing more value and far better screening might be a more fruitful response?

You do not want to give up the protection of those willing to protect you, but we might fork over bigger salaries and a lot more training to avoid those on the dark side.

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(Excerpt from Kimball’s Autobiography of a Nobody — The Miracle of Me)

Richard Kimball, Vote Smart Founder

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