(FinalCall.com) – The New York Council of Elders Relating to Young People has added racial profiling to the numerous issues it deals with to provide guidance and direction to the youth who find their way to the doors of the New Future Foundation. On any given day or night, young people can be found waiting for the assistance that they can only get from the group’s organizer, Harlem’s Community Mayor Queen Mother Dr. Delois N. Blakely.
“They just come to us and we help them. We don’t advertise our services, but the word has spread fast that we will help our young people change their lives,” Dr. Blakely told The Final Call. “When Mr. Dobbins came to us with his racial profiling case, we knew we had to help.”
Mark Dobbins from Brooklyn, his wife Wanda and his brother-in-law Levi Woods were traveling south on Interstate 95 last March. They were driving near the Beltway south of Baltimore in a newly purchased Mercedes Benz with 30-day registration tags when they were stopped by a Maryland Transportation Authority Police traveling North on I-95. The officer claimed he could not identify the temporary tags’ state of issuance or expiration date.
After approaching the car, the officer saw that the information on the temporary tags was timely and legible. A run on Mr. Dobbin’s license also confirmed that he was the owner of the car in good standing.
After that, the details become controversial. The occupants of the car claim to be victims of racial profiling, excessive force and police brutality at the hands of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police. They maintain that, after they were stopped, additional officers approached the car and began demanding documentation from Mr. Dobbins that he had already provided to the first officer. Things escalated into a vicious verbal and physical assault on Mr. Dobbins and Mr. Woods, with them allegedly being dragged from the car, beaten by the officers and subsequently arrested.
Both men were charged with second degree assault of an officer, reckless endangerment of an officer, resisting arrest, and several other violations stemming from conflict with the officers–none of which relate to the reason for the stop. Mrs. Dobbins was left on the side of the road.
The case was heard Dec. 1 in Catonsville, Md. by Judge Edward Murphy, who agreed with the arresting officers. He convicted the men of most of the charges against them, sentencing Mr. Dobbins to two years in prison, but suspended the sentence to a year of supervised probation in New York and a $200 fine. He sentenced Mr. Woods to 18 months in jail, but suspended that to one month in jail plus $155 in fines and fees. According to the judge, both men allowed a minor traffic stop to become a dangerous situation.
“Since the first day we took testimony, I’ve thought all along about this case and why it developed to the point it did,” explained Judge Murphy during the hearing, according to the Baltimore Sun. Had Mr. Dobbins answered the officer’s questions about when he moved to Maryland, the judge said, “none of us would be here today.”
Depending on the answer, Judge Murphy said, Mr. Dobbins might have received an additional traffic citation–for not transferring his driver’s license from New York to Maryland. “But it would not have escalated to where you all could have been killed,” he said, according to the Baltimore Sun.
The Council of Elders was dissatisfied with that decision.
“We are working with Mr. Dobbins and Mr. Woods to appeal that decision,” said Dr. Blakely. “I testified at the trial as a character witness and offered my place as somewhere Mr. Dobbins could do his community service.”
Mr. Dobbin’s lawyer, Joseph Murtha, agreed that the convictions would be appealed. According to the Baltimore Sun, he told the judge that he had “never seen anyone treated as maliciously” as Mr. Dobbins.
Dr. Blakely sees this case as another manifestation of the crisis facing Black youth. She was a Roman Catholic nun for 10 years and worked out of the White House under President Jimmy Carter on the commission for The International Year of the Child.
“The judge told Mr. Dobbins to stay close to me, because he understood the work that we do with our youth. We give them the support they need. We chastise them as well. We don’t let them blame and point the finger. We give them continual counseling. Lessons are being learned here and we are educating our youth,” she said.
“But I saw the tape of what happened and I was appalled. We are appealing this because it was racial profiling and police brutality.”