“What are you doing in this neighborhood?” The Grandview cop asked as he blew smoke into Gino’s face. Gino was a Hispanic who lived with a family in a middle-class subdivision in Grandview, MO. He didn’t look like he fit in with his bandana tied around his forehead, flannel shirt and jeans. He looked like a Chicano, a slang word for Mexican guys that I grew up with in California.
My husband, Jerome, was sitting in the passenger’s seat. “I live here sir,” Gino replied. The cop looked at my husband asked his name and how he knew Gino. “My name is Jerome and we’re good friends from a ministry that we’re both involved in,” he said. I was pregnant with my and upset that this cop was so rude to Gino and my African-American husband.
The cop than told Gino that he was going 45 in a 35 mile per hour zone. He went back to his car and the fear from a police confrontation gripped me until he returned with the ticket. Gino was shaken by the encounter and I vowed to call the police. Jerome and I were visiting Gino from Columbia, MO. Grandview is part of the greater KC metro area.
Jerome didn’t want me to complain to the Grandview Police Department, but I called anyway. The police department asked me for the cop’s badge number but I had not written it down during the traffic stop. I told them the time and location of the stop so they could track down the officer.
To this day, I have no idea if the Grandview Police Department did anything with that complaint. This was 1994 and the racial climate was tense in Grandview. We were visiting Gino to attend the former Metro Christian Fellowship that was pastored by Mike Bickle. I’ll never forget when Mike, who now leads the International House of Prayer, got off the stage to introduce himself to Jerome. That friendly outreach from a Grandview pastor softened the harsh encounter with the policeman.
We were not welcomed by the Grandview cop but we we’re embraced by a White pastor. Gino, who attended his church, said that he was working hard to bring more diversity in his congregation. Today IHOP is one of the most diverse ministries in the nation.
Our encounter with that Grandview cop was nowhere near the police encounter between an unarmed black teenager and white police officer in Ferguson, MO. Regardless of who’s right or wrong, I have to say that I wait for my own sons when they’re driving home from somewhere at night. I pray for peace for the people of Ferguson and I pray that my own sons won’t face unjust authority because of their race.
Jerome and I have taught them to be respectful and polite with authority. We have no control over the jerks, like that Grandview cop that blew smoke in my friend’s face and wondered what a Hispanic and African American were doing in a predominantly white subdivision. More than ever, we need the peace of God on the scene. Ultimately, He is the giver of justice. And He is the only one that can break racial walls down and bring us together.
If you’re ever pulled over by police, here’s some advice.