Letters to the Editor 7/21/16
DRIVING WHILE BLACK
I am surprised that Samuel Johnson won’t get his day in court to prove his allegation that he was stopped by Springfield police for the color of his skin, not his failure to use a turn signal (“Judge dismisses lawsuit over ‘racial profiling’ traffic stop,” July 14, by Patrick Yeagle). As I understand the judge’s reasoning in dismissing the suit, the police are permitted to have a shifting rationale for stopping a motorist, throwing whatever charges they can muster against the district court’s wall, and then to pursue whichever one finally sticks.
In Johnson’s case, though, he alleges not just that they pulled him over for an offense that wasn’t illegal; his concern is that they chose to pull him over in the first place because of the color of his skin. Whether they had the power to pull him over is nothing more than an issue the police can raise in their defense – it is not dispositive by itself. What did the judge say about the fact that of the more than 13,000 tickets the Springfield police issue per year, only 125 or so are for turn signals? What did the judge say about the fact that the police could offer no justification for Johnson’s stop in terms of safety? What did the judge say about one officer’s admission that he believed Johnson had several criminal convictions for drug-related offenses?
If our federal court is unwilling to engage the issue of prosecution for driving while black in Springfield, then our city fathers need to step up and take it on themselves. I know I will wake up my neighbors with the scream I let out when Springfield has a Philando Castile-type shooting and some city official goes on Channel 20 to say, “Well, no one could have predicted that this sort of thing would happen here.”
ECONOMIC COST OF ALCOHOL
Gov. Rauner signed a bill to allow the board of trustees of public universities and community colleges to decide whether to allow the sale of alcohol at public events. Did politicians and university officials consider the high costs of alcohol? The economic cost of alcohol is $807 per person per year, whether you drink or not. The cost is $249 billion annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Underage drinking and alcohol abuse by college students is a major concern both for individuals and the campus community. Virtually all students experience the effects of college drinking, whether they drink or not.
One fourth of college students experience academic consequences due to drinking and 20 percent met the criteria for alcohol abuse/dependence, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. College students are injured, assaulted, attempt suicide, experience sexual abuse, health problems and die each year as a result of alcohol.
Alcohol-related problems tend to go up when alcohol is more readily accessible to young adults. Allowing the sale of alcohol at sporting and public events at colleges could lead to an increase in underage drinking, alcohol abuse and drinking and driving.
The boards of trustees at Illinois universities and community colleges will develop their alcohol policies within the next six months.
If you are alumni or have children or grandchildren attending college in the state, please contact the trustees. Ask them not to allow the sale of alcohol at sporting events, concerts or public events in the stadiums/arenas.
Anita Bedell, executive director Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems