On Thursday, a vigil was held for Ethan Saylor, the man with Down syndrome whose death led me to coin the phrase, “cult of compliance.” I see the consequences of that cult everywhere. It’s a world in which police demand total compliance and use lack-of-compliance as justification for abuses both small and great (and fatal).
A lot of people have been sharing this story from Miami Gardens, in which a store-owner installed cameras in order to catch police harassing his employees and customers.
Earl Sampson has been stopped and questioned by Miami Gardens police 258 times in four years.
He’s been searched more than 100 times. And arrested and jailed 56 times.
Despite his long rap sheet, Sampson, 28, has never been convicted of anything more serious than possession of marijuana.
Miami Gardens police have arrested Sampson 62 times for one offense: trespassing.
Almost every citation was issued at the same place: the 207 Quickstop, a convenience store on 207th Street in Miami Gardens.
But Sampson isn’t loitering. He works as a clerk at the Quickstop.
So how can he be trespassing when he works there?
a question the store’s owner, Alex Saleh, 36, has been asking for more
than a year as he watched Sampson, his other employees and his
customers, day after day, being stopped and frisked by Miami Gardens
police. Most of them, like Sampson, are poor and black.
258 times in 4 years for trespassing at one’s place of employment.
Since he installed the cameras in June 2012 he has collected more
than two dozen videos, some of which have been obtained by the Miami
Herald. Those tapes, and Sampson’s 38-page criminal history — including
charges never even pursued by prosecutors — raise some troubling
questions about the conduct of the city’s police officers.
videos show, among other things, cops stopping citizens, questioning
them, aggressively searching them and arresting them for trespassing
when they have permission to be on the premises; officers conducting
searches of Saleh’s business without search warrants or permission;
using what appears to be excessive force on subjects who are clearly not
resisting arrest and filing inaccurate police reports in connection
with the arrests.
It’s a long piece and worth reading. The deep issues here are about race, class, and the police. But for me, I keep thinking how the cult of compliance enables these kinds of abuses, it builds in justifications and strips away the protections we hold dear.