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You would think the license plate would give them pause, but you would be wrong:

A police traffic stop of Toledo Councilman Larry Sykes without any apparent probable cause has sparked an internal investigation, The Blade has learned.
Mr. Sykes, a former Toledo Board of Education member who was elected in November to city council, was pulled over at 9:25 p.m. April 24 after leaving the studios of WGTE-TV for a program on senior citizens and hunger.
Mr. Sykes, who is African-American, said the officer, who was white, likely racially profiled him.

Mr. Sykes said he has been racially profiled many times in the past by law enforcement officers, and that the license plate of the sport utility vehicle he was driving that night reads “4DRWBLK,” which stands for “4 driving while black.”

Mr. Sykes said he asked the officer, “What is the problem?” and his reply was, “It was difficult to read your tags,” according to his letter to Chief Moton.

“Chief Moton, as I drove away, I became very angry because he had no justification nor did he give me a decent reason for stopping me,” Mr. Sykes wrote in the letter. “Stating that he stopped me because he could not read my license plate, my license plate reads 4DRWBLK, which stands for “4 driving while black.”
Mr. Sykes said the incident angered him because he was not speeding, did not run a red light, and he was not driving his 2005 Chevrolet TrailBlazer erratically.
“I would like an explanation as to why this young officer would search for a reason to pull me over or look at my plate,” he wrote. “My license plates are big and bold, and it makes no sense why he would not be able to read it, I’ve had these license plates for the last 20 years and it is because I have been profiled so many times and stopped for driving while black.”

Board of Education, recently elected to City Council – at this point he’s a public figure. Doesn’t matter. They’re still pulling him over and questioning him.






64 replies
  1. 1
    ThresherK says:

    The plate didn’t even have that plastic cover over it which is so popular in my area.

    I don’t know what it’s for, but whenever I hear that a convenience store has been held up at 2am and they’re looking at security camera footage of a parking lot, I figure “That thing may come in handy”.

  2. 2
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    I’m confident that conservatives will come up with a Biblical justification for this practice.

  3. 3
    Kropadope says:

    Perhaps the claim that it was because he couldn’t read the tags is a coy reference to what the tags said. He, in fact, pulled him over for driving while black.

  4. 4
    WereBear says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate: Son of Ham!

    I believe.

  5. 5
    Mr. Prosser says:

    A lot of people from Colorado and Washington state will begin to understand profiling when traveling out of state. Cops are stopping them to find marijuana just because of the license plate.

  6. 6
    The Moar You Know says:

    You would think the license plate would give them pause

    No, I think the license plate would be like waving a red towel in front of a bull.

    Doesn’t matter. Obama would get pulled over every week if the Secret Service guy driving his car wasn’t white.

    This nation is racist as fuck.

  7. 7
    barry says:

    Sykes is the real racist. Clarence Thomas has said that there is no white racism now and that the racism of the past was due to the Democrat Party. Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater, Storm Thurmond ended that. Herman Cain and Ben Carson are the only proof we need.

  8. 8
    Belafon says:

    I’m pretty sure he was pulled over because he was a Democrat.

    (That’s for some of the people here.)

  9. 9
    ThresherK says:

    @The Moar You Know: I decided to vote for him when Obama parried the question “Are you ‘black enough’?” with “I’m reminded of that every time I try to hail a cab…”

  10. 10
    eric says:

    @The Moar You Know: that is bullshit liberal claptrap. The nation is not racist it has many black friends like South Africa, Ethiopia. /s

  11. 11
    kc says:

    Kay! Good to see you!

  12. 12
    Kay says:

    @kc:

    hello! Good to see you too.

  13. 13
    MomSense says:

    KAY!! So happy to see you post!

    @eric: Winner!!

  14. 14
    Kay says:

    @MomSense:

    Good to see you too. Do you have a governor’s race in November?

  15. 15
    Halteclere says:

    In many states the clear plate covers are illegal (but not really enforced), for they interfere with license plate cameras. Some states are also starting to crack down on the use of trim rings around the plates for the same reasons.

    Now, I’m sure the good officer that night had been pulling over all other motorists with trim rings…

  16. 16
    Violet says:

    @Halteclere: The plastic covers and the brackets are both illegal in my state. Well, the brackets are allowed but they can’t cover any relevant information on the license plate, which most of them do, so that pretty much makes most of them non-compliant.

    I don’t understand the plastic covers at all. You can’t read the plate, they turn yellow pretty quickly, and WTF is the point? Cops should ticket people for those alone.

    Hi, Kay! Good to see you!

  17. 17
    srv says:

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  18. 18
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Halteclere: My wife travels often to be with her elderly parents, and as a result drives through a small town late at night with out-of-state plates. She has been pulled over many times by the local constabulary for made-up equipment violations, generally around alleged problems with visibility of tags – things like saying a light is out when it’s not, that sort of thing. She’s white and (being as gentle as possible) a little past what you’d call middle-aged, so she’s always allowed to drive along. But the cop can’t see into the car at midnight, so I’ve become convinced that this is a standard tactic for getting around the probable-cause problem. If she were younger or darker or maler that pretext would probably lead to longer delays and more questions.

  19. 19
    Mnemosyne says:

    @srv:

    They always do. Wall Street loves loves loves layoffs. It’s a guaranteed stock price increaser.

  20. 20
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    My best friend grew up white in Detroit, and she and her sisters were constantly getting pulled over at night if they went to the suburbs because they didn’t have the “right” stickers. They never got arrested for anything, but they were well aware that they were being pulled over on suspicion of being black.

  21. 21
    celticdragonchick says:

    Hell, he’s lucky he didn’t get a beat down and accused of assaulting a police officer (which seems to be the standard charge when the officer, in fact, wants to beat the shit out of you. Your face assaulted his fist.)

  22. 22
    SatanicPanic says:

    @barry: I don’t think Clarence Thomas believes there is no racism- if I understand correctly he believes that there is racism, it will never go away, so there’s nothing for the government to do about it and if the government tries it just makes things worse. Like how affirmative action taints all his accomplishments.

  23. 23
    Halteclere says:

    @Violet:

    I don’t understand the plastic covers at all. You can’t read the plate, they turn yellow pretty quickly, and WTF is the point?

    But the plastic covers keep the plate nice and clean!

    Most automatic plate reading cameras have trouble reading characters when something visually touches the character edge, which is why trim rings are starting to become discouraged. In these situations the picture of the plate has to be sent to someone for manual review, which costs the state money.

    Here’s Ohio’s code on displaying license plates.

    All license plates … shall not be covered by any material that obstructs their visibility

    I don’t think “visibility” is specifically defined anywhere, so a state may use this term to restrict anything that covers any part of a plate.

  24. 24
    Chris says:

    Give them pause? Hell, I’ll bet it only gave incentive.

  25. 25
    MomSense says:

    @Kay:

    Why yes we do.

    Right now LePage and Michaud are tied at about 40% each with Cutler at 17%.

    We also have a big 2nd district congressional race since Michaud is running for Governor.

    Right now Kevin Raye and Bruce Poliquin are running for the Republican nomination and Emily Cain and Troy Jackson are running for the Democratic nomination.

    As it stands now, Raye beats both Dems if he is the nominee so it is going to be a busy summer and fall for grunts like me. I’m going to need to increase my minutes before phone-banking starts. The second district is mostly very rural so I won’t be doing any canvassing.

    Oh, and I have been wanting to ask you if you have been following the Title IX organizing and legal battles? Last week the students at Tufts occupied the administration offices and surrounded the building to force the administration to negotiate with them.

  26. 26
    Kay says:

    @MomSense:

    Thanks. I loathe LePage.

    Oh, and I have been wanting to ask you if you have been following the Title IX organizing and legal battles? Last week the students at Tufts occupied the administration offices and surrounded the building to force the administration to negotiate with them.

    No, I haven’t seen a thing about it.

  27. 27
    MomSense says:

    @Kay:

    I’ll find some links for you. It is way cool on both the legal and organizing fronts–right up your alley!

  28. 28
  29. 29
    FeudalismNow! says:

    Councilman Sykes was pulled over because of his race and specifically because of his tags. The cop had to put him in his place, you see. There is a constant refrain of ‘we do not racially profile’, while acknowledging that they happen to use race to determine probable cause. Ridiculous waste of time and energy, that gets in the way of true police work.

  30. 30
    Kay says:

    @MomSense:

    Thank-you, I’ll read it.

  31. 31
    C.V. Danes says:

    There’s also DWBP: Driving With a Black Passenger. That’s generally considered suspicious activity, too, especially if the BP is of a different sex than the driver.

  32. 32
    JPL says:

    @SatanicPanic: That’s an interesting interpretation. I figured that Thomas was against affirmative action because he no longer needs it. It’s the I got mine, f.k u attitude. My opinion is that if he gets stopped while driving black, good! I am no way promoting driving while black and I think it’s wrong.

    Kay, I am so pleased you were able to post today.

  33. 33
    Mnemosyne says:

    @C.V. Danes:

    Did you see that story from a few months ago where a black (male) adult was arrested because he had a white (female) teenager in the car with him? Even showing the cops a signed note from the girl’s parents and having the cops talk to the parents to say that, yes, he was her dance coach and they were driving to a competition wasn’t enough to prevent him from being arrested.

  34. 34
    bluefoot says:

    @C.V. Danes: Ain’t that the f*cking truth. A few years ago my brother (melanin-enchanced) and a good friend (white) were on their way to Hilton Head for vacation. They were pulled over somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon, and the friend who was driving was asked, “Boy, what’s that thing riding in the front of your car?”

    Though on the flipside, back in college I was hanging out with three of my best friends – a black woman, two white guys. We were parked in a parking lot at a town park, listening to music. A cop pulled up, flashed his flashlight into the open windows, and asked us girls if we were okay, and asked what we were doing. When we told him we were waiting for the moon to set to see if we could catch the meteor shower, he nodded and asked if we were sure we didn’t need any help. When we told him it was cool, he said okay and left us alone.

    Considering the nearly lily-white town we were in, we were impressed he was concerned about the brown and black women in the car being coerced by two clean cut white guys. Even better, one guy was a vet and the other Army Reserve.

  35. 35
    MomSense says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    That is horrible!

  36. 36
    SatanicPanic says:

    @JPL: No, he genuinely is angry that it helped him. He’s actually a pretty interesting man- definitely an example of what racism can do to the people it’s directed at. I don’t agree with his conclusions, but he’s not an IGMFY guy or a shameless opportunist. That being said, I wish he’d retire. And he probably harassed Anita Hill.

  37. 37
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @SatanicPanic: I agree that Thomas has probably been so damaged/hurt/affected by the racism he faced as he was growing up that it has caused him viscerally to hate the programs that benefited him. I think he really does not believe that benefit he received was worth the perceived stigma that he sees. But enough armchair psychology. He is a true believer not a grifter.

  38. 38
    jl says:

    I eagerly await Mr. deBoer’s denunciation of miserable lefty blogs promoting racial division by reporting this news.

  39. 39
    Tone In DC says:

    I decided to vote for him when Obama parried the question “Are you ‘black enough’?” with “I’m reminded of that every time I try to hail a cab…”

    I still love that Barackman Hussein Overdrive said that. Chicago is no different than DC, in that respect.

    Thinking about how the law around here treats melanin enhanced folks will cause my blood pressure to skyrocket, so I’ll just leave that alone.

  40. 40
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Mnemosyne: They loves short term profit most of all. It’s like candy to them. Immediate gratification for Ferengi slimebuckets.

  41. 41
    Schlemizel says:

    Actually I think the plate increases the odds of getting pulled over. He comes off as uppity, the kind of boy that needs to be taken down a peg so he learns his place. SIGH, I wish I didn’t know this patter so well.

    I had a history teacher in High School (so yeah, like a hundred years ago). He was fairly dark skinned and his wife, though obviously AA, was very light skinned. He told the story of visiting her relatives in Alabama (this would have been around ’68). The found that the only safe way to go was for her to sit in the back seat while he drove. Any other combination got them pulled over. He said you could see the surprise in the cops eyes when he realized his wife was not white. He also decided to only travel during the day.

  42. 42
    Mnemosyne says:

    @MomSense:

    Here’s a link to a story about it. I understand why the cops were initially suspicious, but once you talk to the parents, shouldn’t it be, Okay, you’re free to go, sorry we misunderstood?

    ETA: Also, I misremembered slightly — it was the girl who was taken into custody and placed at a DCFS facility overnight, not the coach.

  43. 43
    FlipYrWhig says:

    I would have thought the tag stood for “4 Drew Blank.” Dunno what it would mean, tho.

  44. 44
    C.V. Danes says:

    @Mnemosyne: I don’t doubt it at all. Having been in an interracial relationship with my wife for going on 20 years, I can definitely attest to the fact that there are places, mostly below the Mason-Dixon line, where I would be very nervous for us to be traveling together. Even living in the north east, I’ve had cops do 180’s and follow us for no apparent reason.

    On a side note, my wife and I traveled to Charleston S.C. a couple of years ago to visit with some friends, both white, who thought Charleston the best thing since sliced bread. Having been stationed there in the military, I knew otherwise, but my wife reaffirmed that, as a person of color, she found the atmosphere of oppression almost palpable.

  45. 45
    Geeno says:

    I remember that old Michael Moore show where he had a white newly released ex-con and Yaphet Koto in NYC trying to hail a cab. The con gets a ride every time, the wealthy and famous actor – not so much. Many cabs passed Koto to pick up the felon.

  46. 46
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    Hi Kay!!! Don’t even get me started about this end of the state. Like the black businessman with a diabetic crisis who was yanked out of his car, roughed up, and tased – he was in a very, um, non black neighborhood – where he happened to live – when he was weaving. OHP intervened when a trooper happened upon it, and complained to Si. I don’t know where the 1983 action is at this point – settled I hope. FSM knows the retired sheriff knows 1983 better than most.

    /legal inside baseball

  47. 47
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Look, it’s a conditioned response in white peace officers. Those who drive while black are OBVIOUSLY escaped slaves who need to be returned to their loving owners back on the plantation.

  48. 48
    Mnemosyne says:

    @C.V. Danes:

    Sadly, we’re certainly not immune to such things here in liberal Southern California. There was a pretty infamous case in 2001 where a surgeon was detained by LAPD because of an error by the rental car company. Again, it could have been cleared up in about 10 minutes, but of course LAPD had to be big swinging dicks about it, because that’s how they are.

  49. 49
    rikyrah says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    You speak the truth

  50. 50
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Geeno: Yaphet Koto is an accomplished actor, but even as accomplished an actor as he is, he can’t act his way into getting picked up by a cab when some white guy is standing near him trying to do the same.

  51. 51
    MomSense says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Not only did they talk to the parents, but she was traveling with her original birth certificate, a letter of authorization, her insurance card, and an original birth certificate!

    Here’s the key quote for me.

    Are you aware your daughter is with two black men?’ When I said ‘Yes, I’m aware of that,’ he called into questioning our parenting, the mother said.

  52. 52
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @MomSense: Was it the long form birth certificate? With a raised seal?

  53. 53
    Sister Machine Gun of Quiet Harmony says:

    @Violet:

    I don’t understand the plastic covers at all. You can’t read the plate, they turn yellow pretty quickly, and WTF is the point?

    In my state, we get new stickers every year for the license plates that tell the police whether the plates are valid (ie. Car has a valid registration and you’ve paid your taxes on the car). The license plate covers help discourage people from stealing them.

  54. 54
    Stuart_B says:

    “I don’t understand the plastic covers at all. You can’t read the plate, they turn yellow pretty quickly, and WTF is the point? Cops should ticket people for those alone.”

    I don’t know about in general, but Missouri issues multi-year plates with stickers for the year. For a while, they were aluminum and had the sticker in the corner–and thieves would just take snips to the plate and remove the sticker at leisure. I think plastic covers are technically discouraged, but the license bureau was recommending them, maybe cops too.

  55. 55
    NonyNony says:

    @Stuart_B:

    I don’t know about in general, but Missouri issues multi-year plates with stickers for the year. For a while, they were aluminum and had the sticker in the corner–and thieves would just take snips to the plate and remove the sticker at leisure

    What. The. Fuck?

    How expensive is your freaking car registration if car thieves are taking tinsnips to your license plates to get the registration stickers? If it’s truly that expensive, that’s a sign that your taxes are way too low and your government is trying to make it up in fees in ways that they really, really shouldn’t.

    (In Ohio we do the same thing with multi-year plates and stickers. Registration is bemoaned as being expensive but damn – I’ve never heard of anyone taking snips to a license plate to get the registration sticker before. That’s nuts!)

  56. 56
    Violet says:

    @Sister Machine Gun of Quiet Harmony: @Stuart_B: In my state then foot rid of those decades ago. Now the license renewal is a sticker on the inside of the windshield. Problem solved.

  57. 57
    Violet says:

    @Violet: Stupid autocorrect. *They got rid of those*

  58. 58
    jenn says:

    @NonyNony: Yeah, those registration stickers are what I’ve always referred to as “tags,” so when reading the OP, assumed that they were what the cop was referring to (rather than the license plate number, which yes, should be easy to read), as I’ve been pulled over for that, myself.

  59. 59
    MomSense says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Wow, isn’t it crazy how much stupid we have all had to endure!

  60. 60
    slag says:

    Clicked over and saw the license plate and registration looking like every other normal license plate and registration I’ve ever seen. Seems like an investigation is in order.

    Good to see you, Kay, and hope to see your byline a bit more!

  61. 61
    Randy P says:

    So do these stories never happen to Ben Carson, Herman Cain, Michael Steele or Clarence Thomas? Surely they must experience the DWB thing as well, or some…er… issues down south.

  62. 62
    redoubt says:

    @C.V. Danes: This. Shallow of me, but in the half-dozen times I’ve been to Charleston, SC I have yet to see a black man in a suit and tie downtown.

  63. 63
    CanadaGoose says:

    @Geeno: When I was a cab driver in NYC, the only passenger who ever stiffed me was the actor Brock Peters.

    I drew no conclusions from that and continued to pick up every motherfucker who flagged me. It was an interesting time

  64. 64
    Epicurus says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb, and state that it may have had something to do with the color of his skin. But, then, we all know that there is no longer any “racism” (a word I despise; I prefer “bigotry” or “prejudice”) in this country, because John Roberts said so. Besides, we all know that the only real racists are the “libtards” who have the temerity to point out obvious examples of prejudice like the story above. Nothing to see here, move along….

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