If I hadn’t known the driver in a video recording of a police officer’s traffic stop was a city councilman, I’d have thought he was just a common cop-hating clown. Actually, his behavior was worse than many street criminals I’ve dealt with. This city politician’s conduct revealed himself to be a very low-quality human being.
But he is a city councilman. In fact, he is at-large City Councilman Omari Shakur, a member of the Newburgh City Council in New York. The potty-mouthed lout went on an extended expletive-laced harangue against a police detective who’d contacted Shakur for a traffic violation.
The detective said he’d gotten out to contact the driver after he’d honked his horn to get him to stop blocking the road (believe me, no detective makes a routine of conducting traffic stops). The detective said there were several open parking spots available, but Shakur continued to block the road.
After honking his horn didn’t work, the detective got out of his vehicle and asked the driver to move his car. Instead of moving the car, the city councilman began an unsolicited seminar in how to be a self-righteous creep. So, the detective decided to issue the unapologetic driver a citation for blocking traffic.
The detective learned more than he ever wanted to about the city councilman’s ability to project incivility. For example, he learned that Shakur was his “f**king boss.” The police chief, yes…the mayor, okay…but a city councilman—uh, no!
The traffic stop transported me back to every similar situation I’d ever had as a cop where I tried to be as polite as possible to someone in a position of authority who didn’t merit basic civility, never mind genuine politeness.
Councilman Shakur came off as a typical street punk. Disrespect and contempt for law enforcement officers oozed off this man. He refused to give the officers his license, which every driver promises to do when they sign to receive their driver’s licenses. He repeatedly told officers, the detective, and a sergeant who responded to, “Get out of my motherf***ing face, or arrest me,” and “I’m not giving you my license.”
I’m sure they wanted to arrest his insolent ass and if he hadn’t been a city councilman, they probably would have. But, as officers repeated, politely, “That’s not the way it works, sir.” During the stop he played his music loudly. One song emanated the lyrics “fight the power,” which Shakur began singing, adding “F**k the police.”
The overarching concern about this interaction is the city councilman took advantage of the cops’ professionalism to make them appear impotent by not arresting him. During the stop, Shakur also threatened to run over one officer and told the detective to “pull your gun, bitch” because he was “getting ready to go at…” him. He also called the cops at the scene, “pigs” and the “KKK.”
Shakur alleges that during the 15 minutes before an officer wearing a camera arrived and started recording the incident, the detective had said to the councilman, “you will end up like your son.” This was a reference to Shakur’s son who was killed by police in 2006. But, having watched the entire video, and having heard how often the councilman repeated his epithets, I never heard that allegation come up on audio or video.
According to the backstory, at first glance, Shakur’s animosity toward the police might seem understandable. After all, Newburgh police shot and killed his son, Antonio Bryant, back in 2006. At first glance. But upon closer inspection his animosity seems less justified when you learn the facts of that case.
Reportedly, in 2001, the Times Herald-Record wrote that Bryant had used a gun to “execute” a man sitting in a car. They reported Bryant was headed toward a 25-year sentence for murder. However, it seems a witness suddenly contracted a fuzzy memory, so the prosecutor offered Bryant a plea deal for manslaughter. Bryant served 4 ½ years, had an outstanding warrant for a parole violation, and fired shots at officers, when police shot and killed him.
Sympathizing with the grief of a parent whose child has been killed is natural—even if that child was a criminal. A parent’s still a parent. But you have to draw the line at sympathizing with a verbally abusive man whose grown child had pleaded guilty to shooting and killing a person and who’d shot at police officers just before they shot back at him.
To be fair, Shakur apologized for his behavior the next day with what began with what sounded like a legitimate apology. Shakur said the way he acted in the video “is not who I am.” The way the vulgarity slid off his toxic tongue for such an extended time, it sure appears to be exactly who he is.
Shakur added, “I believe that all people should be treated with respect and dignity, and that includes members of the police department.” Then Shakur’s apology went limp when he said, “That respect must be reciprocal. Though I was not afforded that respect, I should not have reacted in the manner that I did.”
Those officers gave the thoroughly unpleasant city councilman more respect than he deserved and certainly more than he gave the officers. I could be wrong, but I suspect this will not be the last blistering encounter between the councilman and the city’s cops.