A Lesson from the Trayvon Martin Murder – Local Government Matters

Police_handcuffing_suspect.jpgAn important point is being missed here, folks. While the Occupy Movement and Tea Party are focused on Wall Street and the federal government, they’re both overlooking the level of government that has the most impact on our lives.

Protesters in Stanford, Florida are demanding the prosecution of George Zimmerman. Why? Because they believe the local government didn’t do their job. That’s the level of government that can end your life; it can deprive you of your liberty. If you want to have an impact, get engaged and run for local office. Make sure your local police department does the right thing. The police officer decides whether to take you to jail. Cities and Counties can deprive you of your freedom. This is the strongest form of government power.  

As a middle-aged white man, I have limited experience with this. However, I do have one story. I was driving home from Austin a few years ago and I was pulled over on I-35 in Williamson County because the lights on my rear license plate were burned out. Really. (I have always wondered if my bumper stickers influenced the decision.) Because of the nice weather, I was driving with my windows down, and I complied with every request of the officer. He asked me to get out of the car.

He walked around the car and since I had left the windows open, he stuck his long arm and giant police flashlight deep into my car from the passenger side looking at my stuff in the front seat and the back seat and on the floors. This, apparently, is not an illegal search. He asked for my permission to search the car and trunk, and I denied that. He played the usual “If you had nothing to hide, you would let me search your car.” I was very polite, but I stood by my right against illegal search and seizure. “If I brought out a drug-sniffing dog, what would he find?” Of course, I said he would find nothing. (You should have pulled me over when I was 19 for that, I thought.) So then, he called in on the radio to request a canine unit.

Since he was alone, it was up to him to play both good cop and bad cop. “What year is your Mustang? Is this a GT?” I politely engaged in a conversation about Mustangs. “Oh, come on. You can tell me. I pulled over a guy last week and he told the truth and he had only one joint and I let him go because he was honest.” Oh.

After he detained me for 45 minutes and failed to get the confession he wanted, he wrote my ticket and told me why he had kept me. (He had obviously faked the radio call for canine support.) When he first pulled me over, his flashlight had illuminated what he thought was seeds and buds on my floor mats. WHAT? Before my trip to Austin, I didn’t have time to clean up my car. Saturday I had picked up my son at soccer practice and he had tracked in mud and grass from the field. You moron! So he let me go.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Don’t apply all of your energy to partisan politics and the Presidential campaign. Maximum leverage on important issues can be achieved in your city council or school board. Pay attention. Get involved. Run for office.


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