Because It’s Not Always About Race

As much as video has fundamentally altered public understanding about how the police engage with the public (trigger warning: the word “fuck” appears with unfortunate regularity), and many of us ponder why the police don’t seem to have an adequate appreciation of the fact that people can see or hear what’s happening, it sometimes bites back.  And when the butt bitten belongs to an academic, it suggests that nobody has a firm grasp on the fact that lies aren’t going to fly.

Minati Roychoudhuri is an English professor at Capital Community College. Granted, it ain’t Yale, but then, it’s still a college.  When she was stopped by a police officer in Connecticut, she was sufficiently outraged to shoot off a letter to the Commissioner of Public Safety protesting her having been racially profiled.

Racial profiling? That’s bad stuff. It’s wrong for police to stop a driver just because of their skin.  Something should be done about it. And so she did:

Dear Sir/Madam

I was traveling to Wethersfield on Route 15/5 to attend a meeting 9th May. I was on the left lane on route 15 and had to take exit 85. After the Brainard Airport exit, and after the merging lane ended, I signaled and went to the right lane to take exit 85. An unmarked police car with flashing light stopped me on the ramp after I had taken the exit. The policeman asked me if I could speak English and if I knew why he had stopped me. I said, “yes” to speaking English and “no” to why he had stopped me. He then asked me for my driver’s license and registration. He returned with an envelope and said that I could simply mail in the infraction.

The officer did not give me any reason as to why had stopped me. His asking if I could speak English shows that he had racially profiled me and was not able to give me a concrete reason for stopping me. Further, the officer had checked “Hispanic” in the race category in the infraction ticket. I am a Professor in English at Capital Community College, I teach about diversity and the negative impact of racial profiling, I have now become a target of the same insidious behavior! It is easy to connect the dots with the nationwide racial profiling which has led to serious consequences. I request that my infraction charges be dropped and action be taken against the officer. I have talked with the Senator and Legislator of my constituency regarding this matter and I am sending a copy of this letter to them as well.

Thank you in advance,

Sincerely, Minati Roychoudhuri

Not a bad letter. Detailed. Specific. A clear reference to her scholarly knowledge of this dastardly racial profiling, such that she’s not just some dope who learned the law on the internets.  No, she is a force to be reckoned with,  a person to take seriously. Very, very seriously.

But for one problem.

Most State Police cruisers, including the one that stopped Roychoudhuri, have video and audio recorders to record all motor vehicle stops and other interactions.

Oh crap. Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap.

Officer: Hi ma’am, do you know why I’m stopping you today?
Roychoudhuri: No
Officer: OK. There’s that big gore area with white lines painted across it and you cut in front of it, in front of me, thinking it’s a lane or something. You have to wait until it’s a dotted white line. License and registration.
(She handed him insurance, so he requested the registration again, which she gave him)
Officer: Thank you. This is for your Subaru car.
Roychoudhuri: This is my Subaru car.
Officer: Is this a station wagon, color green? The plate doesn’t match what’s on there.
Roychoudhuri: [Inaudible]…I thought that was my [inaudible]
Officer: I’ll run the plate and see what it comes back with.
Roychoudhuri: This is the [inaudible] that I have.
(Officer returns to his car for three minutes to write out the ticket for failure to drive in the established lane)
Officer: Ma’am. So I wrote you the infraction for that improper lane change that you did.
Roychoudhuri: Please, you know, I probably crossed over there, and that’s why I did it.
Officer: OK.
Roychoudhuri: Obviously I did that.
Officer: [Inaudible]
Roychoudhuri: My [inaudible] is absolutely clean.
Officer: Ok. So I wrote you an infraction for that improper lane change that you did.
Roychoudhuri: OK.
Officer: The answer date is on the front of it and the instructions are on the back of it.
Roychoudhuri: Wait, what?
Officer: It’s a mail in infraction. All you have to do is mail in, either a check or money order, and mail it in.
Roychoudhuri: OK.
Officer: Alright.
Roychoudhuri: Thank you.

Remarkably, the officer not only explained the reason for the stop, but failed to inquire whether she spoke English, and never once used the word “fuck” (see, I warned you).

Racial profiling happens, and it is indeed an insidious practice.  But crying “racial profiling” when it didn’t happen is the sort of thing that turns a serious issue into a joke, diminishes the integrity of allegations when it does happen and undermines confidence that claims of racial profiling is true.

Good job, Professor Roychoudhuri, in not only disgracing yourself, but taking a serious problem and reducing it to a joke.

On the bright side, Internal Affairs finally did something right (I know, but life sucks) by calling Roychoudhuri in to fill out a report consistent with her letter, knowing full well what the audio offered.

At the interview, Roychoudhuri also said to the investigator she hates to think she was stopped due to her race, “But what should I presume? I hate to say this in academia, but I’m in academia and teach about diversity all the time.”

Roychoudhuri was subsequently arrested for giving a false statement in the second degree.

If only Internal Affairs could use its mad skillz so effectively when the claim of racial profiling was true. Or when the target wasn’t an academic, but a cop.

18 thoughts on “Because It’s Not Always About Race

  1. Patrick Geisler

    Roychoudhuri was wrong and the egg on her face is justly deserved but criminal charges? That’s vindictive.

    1. SHG Post author

      Vindictive is a pretty good description, but largely because there is the sense that if she hadn’t been making false allegations against cops, they wouldn’t have bothered. If they wouldn’t do the same for anyone else, then it’s disingenuously selective to do it when it’s only about one of their own.

  2. Jyjon

    “On the bright side, Internal Affairs finally did something right”

    I don’t agree with you. Internal Affairs, whose job it appears to be finding a reason not to discipline officers, apparently have branched out and they are now being used to try and find a reason to arrest anyone who complains. Yes, she is a bad example since she was so out of line, but still, that is exactly what they did.

    1. SHG Post author

      Yeah, I should have written that differently. I meant that Internal Affairs finally caught someone, given the fact that their ability to nab a dirty cop is nearly non-existent. The way I wrote it seems to support their decision to trap her, which would be fine with me if they did so with everyone, cops included. But they don’t.

      But as noted below, snaring Roychoudhuri in a false reporting charge was vindictive. They wouldn’t have done it if she hadn’t complained about a cop, and shouldn’t do it just because it was a cop.

      1. Kathleen Casey

        She tried to get a person doing his job with integrity tossed on his ear. Imagine if someone filed a false complaint to get her fired. She didn’t think of it that way I don’t suppose which if true she needs intervention. This reads as though she is emotionally unstable anyway.

        I hope she is not a member of an administrative board at the campus presiding over sexual assault complaints, “diversity” complaints and who knows what else.

        1. SHG Post author

          Kinda scares you when you remember that profs are the decision-makers on campus disciplinary committees. Whether it’s a philosophy prof or gender studies, I hope they show greater integrity than this.

  3. phroggie

    I think the fifth paragraph from the end has a couple of words in it that don’t belong. Yes, those words are set in a black font color, but so are all the rest, so please don’t assume that I’m racially profiling them.

    This kind of thing sickens me. The police force of ye olden days would’ve told her about the recordings and asked if she’d like to retract her … embellished … letter, and allowed her the opportunity to save face. The modern police force just doesn’t care; they’d rather run her through the wringer, extract some more funds to pay off their margarita machines and pot brownies, and prove to her and the rest of society that they are the ones “in control.”

    1. SHG Post author

      While they took advantage of the opportunity, she handed them the opportunity on a silver platter. Save your tears for a more deserving soul.

  4. Patrick Maupin

    Most of you guys are missing the point completely. It’s not really about being vindictive — heck, it’s not even about her, and they probably don’t even give a rat’s ass about how her prosecution goes, except maybe for show.

    But no way in hell can IA pass up an opportunity to make findings public that show that (a) they really do know how to do a thorough investigation, and (b) all cops are as pure as the driven snow (and certainly not racist).

    I’m pretty sure you don’t get to be in IA without being pretty sharp and keeping a well-worn copy of The Prince under your pillow.

  5. Fubar

    Officer: [Inaudible]
    Roychoudhuri: My [inaudible] is absolutely clean.

    If you drive, you must have a routine
    To make sure that your car is pristine.
    Wax and polish and buff
    Is never enough.
    You must keep your inaudible clean!

  6. Cheryl

    I hate it when officers lie; so why should a civilian get away with a completely false allegation? Why should a decent officer just accept an accusation of being racist? And what of the stories she tells to students based on her “first person experience?” There are serious issues with policing – – someone like this makes a mockery of others’ real concerns. If I worked with her, It would cause me to question anything she ever said.

  7. Mort

    A few snide comments about our “hero” the Professor…

    I am a Professor in English at Capital Community College, I teach about diversity and the negative impact of racial profiling,

    Lady, if that’s what you’re teaching, someones needs to check you’re teaching English classes, or are sticking to the requirements for the course…

    Also, commas are not a 100% substitute for the word “and.” I’d have thought an English professor would know this…

    I have talked with the Senator and Legislator of my constituency regarding this matter and I am sending a copy of this letter to them as well.

    I take it back. Obviously you are NOT teaching English, or at least don’t bother with “proof-reading.” I am 100% certain that the people you mentioned aren’t part of your “constituency.”

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