The personal side of traffic stops

“There’s an overwhelming distrust on both sides,” says the Rev. Tiffany Thomas, pastor of the South Tryon Community Church.
“There’s an overwhelming distrust on both sides,” says the Rev. Tiffany Thomas, pastor of the South Tryon Community Church. Courtesy of Rev. Tiffany Thomas

Three Charlotteans recall times that they were pulled over by the police.

The Rev. Tiffany Thomas, South Tryon Community Church

About a year ago, Thomas was riding with a friend when she says their car was pulled over on Interstate 485. The officer (state troopers normally patrol interstates) asked to search the car. Thomas’ friend, a former assistant district attorney who is black, told him no. “The officer said, ‘What are you hiding?’ It got very tense,” Thomas says.

Over the next 20 minutes, the officer asked several more times for permission to search, Thomas says. “My friend said, ‘You haven’t arrested me. You can’t hold me here any longer.’”

The officer eventually let them go, but not before writing a ticket. Says Thomas, “It was ridiculous how long we were out there.”

Harold Cogdell, Charlotte attorney

About five years ago, Cogdell, a former elected official, says he was pulled over near Central Avenue and Sharon Amity Road. He was wearing a Brazilian soccer jersey, and he says the white CMPD officer started out talking to him in Spanish, asked him how long he had been in the country and said his windows were tinted too dark.

Then he asked to search the car. Cogdell told him no. “He told me I had to wait, that he was calling in additional officers and that I might be arrested for a window-tinting violation.” He said he waited about 15 minutes before one of the other arriving officers recognized him, and Cogdell was allowed to go. “This is not something new and unusual,” he says. “It’s something that’s been occurring for years.”

Rodney Monroe, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief

Some 30 years ago, when Monroe was with the Washington, D.C., police, he says he had strapped on his service revolver after bowling in his weekly league. Someone reported that there was an armed black man in the bowling alley.

He left with his 5-year-old daughter. On the drive home, he pulled into a fast-food drive-thru.

“Suddenly, we were surrounded by officers, guns sticking through the windows, demanding to see my hands,” Monroe recalls. “My daughter was hysterical, grabbing for me, and all I can think of is keeping my hands on the wheel, that something bad could have happened if I reached for her.”

Eventually, the police identified Monroe and apologized.

“Do I fault the other officers? No. Do I believe I was profiled? No. I was a black man with a gun,” Monroe says. “They explained why they stopped me. And we moved on.”