In case you were wondering, they don’t issue law enforcement officers crystal balls upon graduating from the police academy. But some grandchildren of reggae legends apparently get them from somewhere.
Donisha Prendergast, 33, whose grandfather was music icon Bob Marley, and two friends were moving luggage out of a house in a residential neighborhood in Rialto, California, when police detained them, according to news reports. “CBS This Morning” reported that a neighbor said she’d called 911 because she’d seen people she didn’t recognize hurriedly loading bags they’d taken from her neighbor’s house into a car.
The 911 caller said she’s seen an Amazon delivery truck leave the residence just before the people loaded items in the car. She said she also waved to the people, to be friendly, but said the people didn’t wave back.
She added there had been a recent rash of burglaries in the neighborhood and these circumstances made her suspicious, so she called the police to check on them.
Several patrol cars arrived, and officers contacted Prendergast and her friends. Police informed them that a neighbor called police because she’d become suspicious because she knew they didn’t live at the house and that she’d waved, and they hadn’t waved back. After hearing this explanation, they mocked the woman and accused her of calling the police on them for being “black in a white neighborhood.”
What an ugly assumption to make.
During the encounter, the video of which was posted on YouTube, Prendergast and her friends smiled, chatted easily, and even laughed with police officers. Officers in no way appeared aggressive or heavy-handed at any time. Police handcuffed no one and used no force during the incident.
According to the Daily Mail, Prendergast later said, “I’m sad and irritated to see that fear is still the first place police officers go in their pursuit to serve and protect, to the point that protocol supersedes their ability to have discernment.”
Well, that may describe the leftist, anti-police propaganda narrative, but it doesn’t portray what happened — not even close. Did she really expect the cops to “discern” the situation without speaking with them?
What’s sad is that race is the first place to which Prendergast retreats in her pursuit of exploiting those officers and a misunderstanding that people go through every day without blaming bias. This is a disingenuous statement to make about the police officers responding to investigate a possible burglary involving three suspects.
Is she saying clairvoyance is necessary for police to serve and protect properly? Because, without it, there’s no way cops can know what’s happening without investigating. Fear? Watch that video and tell me if you see any fear in any of the officers — better yet, tell me if you see any fear in any of the detainees.
Using her crystal ball, or whatever mystical mind reading device she might have, Prendergast concluded the officers detained and questioned them because they were black. Does she think if the burglary suspects had been white the cops would have simply given them a friendly wave and then have driven on down the road to the next coffee shop? Race-baiting cop critics are fond of asking, “Why do police only stop black people like this?”
The truth is, the cops stop all people in similar circumstances, but it seems it’s only when they stop certain black people it winds up on the evening news.
I think a little introduction to reality is needed here. Had Prendergast stopped for a single second to think about what the officers were supposed to do, instead? What should they have done differently? By “protocols,” is she referring to legitimate investigations? And, by “discernment,” does she mean mind reading?
Think about the sequence of events, keep in mind what those cops knew at the time they responded to the 911 call, and put yourself in their positions:
You see a FedEx truck leave, then see three people you don’t recognize, removing items from your neighbor’s house across the street. You wave to the people, likely to gauge their response, and they ignore you. This adds enough to your suspicions, and you call 911 to report a possible burglary in progress.
Now, you are a police officer, and the dispatcher sends you to the call: a possible burglary in progress. Other available officers also respond, since there are three suspects, and the call is a potential felony crime. All the information you have right now is that a possible residential burglary is in progress, involving multiple suspects, and whatever description the caller gave: race, gender, height, weight, age, clothing, etc. Remember, this is all the information you have. You don’t know who those people are or whether they are committing a crime. How could you?
If you assume they’re not criminals and let your guard down, you put yourself and other officers at risk. If you proceed with caution, as your department has trained you to do, knowing those people may be burglars, you and your fellow officers are much safer. You’d be stupid to bet your life that a suspect is not a potential criminal before you evaluate the situation.
You and your backup officers arrive, assess the circumstances, and the three individuals, including Prendergast, tell you the house is an Airbnb rental. You and other officers speak with the people, make some calls, and eventually verify they had rented the house.
I heard it reported on the Michael Medved radio show that the house may not have been licensed by the city as a valid Airbnb. This may explain why the neighbor who called 911 didn’t know the house was sometimes used as a rental.
What wrong has happened here? You did your job correctly. Does that matter? Sadly, to many people these days, no, it doesn’t.
Once verified, you released Prendergast and her friends. What wrong has happened here? You did your job correctly. Does that matter? Sadly, to many people these days, no, it doesn’t.
Now, for anyone interested in critical thinking and looking at the objective facts and not an apparent mind reader’s accusation, let’s ask the pertinent question and discuss the officers’ options:
As an alternative to responding to a reported burglary, what should the police officers have done instead? You know, Prendergast and her friends are now suing the cops.
But, first, let’s go all the way back to the neighbor. “See something, say something,” right? It’s the rule of the day for reporting potential criminal activity. She saw actions she thought may have been a burglary, which, not knowing the people at her neighbor’s house, was at least suspicious circumstances, so she called the police to investigate, which is their job.
Should she have ignored her concerns and just hoped her neighbor’s house wasn’t being burglarized? Is it possible race played a role in her decision-making? Maybe, but you don’t know. How could you unless she says so or you can read minds? Otherwise, you’re just guessing or, perhaps, projecting.
Even if the caller did harbor racist animus, once she called 911, what was the dispatcher supposed to do once the caller mentioned that some of the people involved were black (which, by the way, along with white, Hispanic, Asian, tall, short, young, old, etc. are routine questions dispatchers and cops ask), cancel the call?
Again, no crystal ball; dispatchers and cops have to ask what the person they’re looking for looks like for, what should be obvious reasons. Should the dispatcher have told the woman to mind her own business and hang up the phone? What option was there other than to dispatch police to the location to find out what was going on? In fact, not dispatching officers would have been a dereliction of duty, as it also would be for the officers’ not responding.
Once the patrol units got the call, what should they have done? Somehow guess that the suspects were not burglarizing the home and not respond to the scene to be sure? Or, once at the scene, see that some suspects were black so … assume the 911 caller was racist and then somehow know, without any investigation, that the people were not burglars?
I’ve been on an awful lot of burglaries-in-progress during my career. Some turn out just like this incident with their being no burglary. Others turn out to be real burglars committing real burglaries. And you know what? Sometimes those burglars look like, as in this case, nice, ordinary people simply bringing bags, including suitcases, from a house out to a car. Without investigating, how can the cops possibly know?
It wasn’t even as if the cops were driving by and proactively detained those people for investigation. In this case, someone who articulated acceptable reasons for her suspicions called the officers to the scene. Once a complainant calls 911 with a legitimate concern about suspicious behavior, which this qualifies as, the police are obligated to respond, or they’re not doing their jobs.
Some good people, Prendergast and her friends among them, have a hard time believing anyone could see them as being anything other than good people. They fail to put themselves in the police officer’s position. For some strange reason, some people think the cops should just know they didn’t do it. If you think about it, it’s strange to think a person you don’t know, a cop, whose job it is to investigate crime, should somehow know you mean them no harm.
So, why exactly are Prendergast and her friends suing the cops? The police injured no one, arrested no one, handcuffed no one, verbally abused no one, and no one suffered anything other than a brief inconvenience. So even if the three have a problem with the “white” lady who called the police on them — even if they knew her motivation was partly or fully racism, what does that possibly have to do with the cops’ investigating circumstances that, for any law enforcement officer, at least rose to the level of suspicious circumstances?
It’s too bad this case will likely be resolved with a settlement payment from people who did nothing wrong to people who suffered no injuries. But Prendergast and her friends will have given more ammo to the cop-hater industry. What’s really too bad is that before ruining civility by acting irresponsibly after the incident, Prendergast and her friends acted perfectly at the scene. So did the police officers.
Steve Pomper is an OpsLens contributor and retired Seattle police officer. He has served as a field training officer on the East Precinct Community Police Team, and as a precinct mountain bike coordinator. He has a BA in English language and literature. This OpsLens piece is used by permission.