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Quit Playin’: It’s The Badge…Stupid!

Quit Playin’: It’s The Badge…Stupid!

By Vincent L. Hall

It was a hot summer day, and the pavement on Northwest Highway in front of the Northeast Police substation had to be 108°. I’m not kidding, Stevie Wonder’s hit 1980 album title was right, it was “Hotter than July.” The Warriors had taken their familiar post, and we were exercising our first amendment rights. We never invoked our Second Amendment right to bear arms. Our mission was always to arrive and leave in peace and not pieces. Non-violent protests and resistance demands that you put your health and safety on the line.

We were taking “baby steps” through the crosswalk in a single line and formation. Our perfected technique helped us add as much as three minutes to the signal light’s length. Motorists on their way to work were mad as hell. Some of those people wore blue uniforms and were pissed. Something went awry, as things sometimes do, and I can’t say precisely what or when. Suddenly, a mercurial flash in my peripheral vision captured Commissioner John Wiley Price running in full gait. He seemed to have run a marathon in a minute. He pulled up to the officer, standing toe-to-toe and eye-to-eye.

Commissioner John Wiley Price and former Dallas Asst. Police Chief Don Stattford

By now, my position as a peacemaker and diplomat was in jeopardy. This one officer, whom we nicknamed “RoboCop,” was slightly under six-foot, all muscle, no neck. He looked like an Arnold Schwarzenegger cutout. Apparently, John was not nearly as impressed as me. I made my way to where all the kinetic energy was amassing. This confrontation was inevitable. Like I said, it was a hot day, and everyone’s nerves were frazzled. The area residents were restless and frankly sick of us. We heard the same familiar shouts. “Get a job! Why don’t you leave us alone? Go back to your neighborhood.”

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Expletives and racial slurs were a part of the daily regime that fed our resolve. This particular law-enforcement officer had his mind made up. He whispered to or gestured to John that he would whip his ass. John drew closer to him, standing all but on the officer’s toes and said something 25 years ago that I think you should consider. “No MF, you don’t have to drop the gun. Take off that goddamn badge. I’ll show you what time it is. You can keep the gun, just drop the badge.” It is contrary to his reputation, but John is a stickler for rules. That memorable exchange fell in my consciousness the other day while watching the amorphous hodge-podge of federal officers in Portland. Officers who were instructed to hide their badges contrary to the oath and pledge took when they received the badge.

If the badge means nothing, vigilantism, and “citizens” arrests will run rampant. Donald Trump’s Gestapo tactics are destroying police, judges, and respect for the rule of law. Any idiot can carry a gun, but badges and courts must be circumspect and above reproach. Anything less is chaos. Somebody needs to whisper to the “Naked Emperor” at 1600 BLM Plaza. When you devalue constitutional rights and procedural norms, you invite anarchy. It’s the badge stupid!

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Vincent L. Hall is an author, activist, and award-winning columnist.


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