John Felton, of Michigan, was driving through Dayton, Ohio on a night in August, when he was pulled over by a police officer. John Felton is a black man and the police officer, Randy Betsinger, is a white man. No, no one died, if that’s what you’re thinking. Good guess, though. No, the reason why this story has been making the news rounds, is because during the traffic stop, Mr. Felton, recorded the incident on his cell phone. What’s even more shocking, is that in this recording, Officer Betsinger is heard to admit that the reason he pulled John Felton over was because Mr. Felton made “eye-contact”. The video is below.
The City Manager, Warren Price, has since issued an apology of sorts, and revealed to the press that Officer Betsinger has been reprimanded and will be sent back to the police academy to be “retrained”. The Dayton Police Department, due to the humiliating actions of Officer Betsinger, released a statement clarifying that making eye-contact with a police officer is not sufficient basis for a stop. Which is great news to me, because I seriously don’t think I’ve looked directly at a cop since I was nine.
Officer Betsinger didn’t actually issue a citation to Mr. Felton, just a warning, but the lingering effects of the trauma that John Felton felt are going to be far more damaging. Being pulled over for a traffic stop can be scary (for some), but as a black man, it is absolutely terrifying. It doesn’t matter if you’re John Felton or Chris Rock, being pulled over by a white police officer, especially at night, immediately filled one’s head with images of their own grisly death – their mother’s crying on the news – Al Sharpton getting angry on MSNBC – Sean Hannity vilifying you on Fox News – the scope of your entire death and the aftermath is laid out before you, and that all happens before the cop even gets out of their car.
In the video, Mr. Felton, actually references Sandra Bland – that shows you just a small amount of the kind of horror black people expect from white cops at a traffic stop at night. It’s essentially the nightmare to end all nightmares.
And yet, Mr. Felton managed to do something that has not only further exposed the realties of African American-Police relations. He’s also made himself somewhat of a hero in the process.
The Dayton Fraternal Order of Police, is furious that the city has apologized to John Felton. “This is an outrage to the entire policing community,” said FOP President Mike Galbraith. Why is it never an outrage when a cop does shoddy police work? Why is an officer who has clearly been caught profiling African American not the outrage? It would be amazing to JUST ONCE see police actually admit when they’re wrong. At least offer the guy Cavs tickets, or since he’s from Michigan, Pistons tickets, I guess. If anyone really wants those… I mean, it’s all about the gesture, right?