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Officer praised for avoiding the pitfalls of racial profiling

Racial profiling continues to be a significant problem here in Wisconsin and around the country. Civil rights advocates often argue that police spend a disproportionate amount of time and energy patrolling neighborhoods with high concentrations of African Americans and other minorities. Racial profiling is also a major issue during traffic stops.

Law enforcement officers have a lot of leeway when it comes to making traffic stops for suspected drunk driving and other offenses. Therefore, proving racial profiling can be difficult. That being said, there are some pretty clear indicators, such as when African-American drivers are asked insulting questions including whether or not the vehicle they are driving is stolen. Sadly, reports of this happening are far from rare.

With this context in mind, one mother's recent Facebook post has gone viral online precisely because it defies expectations. It tells the surprising story of a police interaction that shouldn't be surprising at all.

According to news sources, an African-American woman in Virginia shared a photo of her 20-year-old son standing next to a white state trooper, and both were smiling. When the young man blew a tire on the Mercedes he was driving, it wasn't long before the trooper stopped to investigate.

Rather than asking the young man if the car was stolen, he immediately offered to help change the tire. His attempt was unsuccessful, but he stayed with the stranded driver until help arrived, and used his lights to warn other motorists of their presence on the shoulder of a dark highway.

When the young man's mother arrived, she took a picture of her son with the trooper. She later took to social media to post the photo and to thank the trooper publicly. In response to the post going viral, the woman said: "I wasn't trying to create this kind of reaction. I was sincerely trying to express my gratitude. I was not expecting a nationwide response."

While good law enforcement officers deserve to be commended for the work they do, this officer's good work is not the noteworthy part of the story. Rather, the story surprised so many readers because it comes at a time when tensions between law enforcement and African American communities are especially high. Hopefully, there will come a time in the near future where this kind of interaction is no longer newsworthy because it is the rule and not the exception.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Cop Didn't Ask If Mercedes 'Was Stolen': Mom's Facebook Post AboutĀ Helpful Trooper Goes Viral," Simon McCormack, May 20, 2015

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