Barry Saunders

Saunders: Questions linger over Rep. Cecil Brockman’s traffic stop

It’s hard to see how state Rep. Cecil Brockman’s recent, recorded encounter with state troopers could’ve ended much better.

From the parts of his stop in Archdale that are audible, it appears that the troopers did everything by the book in ticketing him for not wearing a seat belt. Brockman, D-Guilford, though, contends that in a portion of the stop that was inaudible, one trooper suggested he could have stolen that sweet ride.

If the trooper did that, shame on him. He owes Brockman an apology.

If Brockman, a soul brother solon, is misrepresenting his encounter simply because he was P.O.’ed about getting a ticket – and right here at Christmas, who wouldn’t be? – shame on him and he owes an apology not just to the impugned trooper but to everyone who gets stopped and truly disrespected. Black men being stopped by cops is a situation already fraught with danger, so the last thing we need is some influential legislator exacerbating the problem simply because he doesn’t want to fork over some dough.

Among the things for which Brockman is being criticized is immediately telling the trooper who stopped him, “I’m a state representative.”

Why wouldn’t he use any information at his disposal to diffuse the situation, to let the trooper know that he posed no threat?

“I’m very pissed off,” Brockman told the trooper. “I think if I was a white representative that you guys would’ve been like ‘OK, sorry sir.’”

Was Brotherman Brockman indignant about receiving a ticket for not buckling up?

Everybody is. Take me. Please.

Two years ago, a peel-eyed patrolman pulled in behind me 30 seconds after I left a parking lot on Roxboro Road in Durham.

Furious, was I?

You bet, but mainly at myself because I always buckle up. Except that time. When the trooper fell in behind me, I unsuccessfully resorted to an old surreptitious seat belt-buckling technique I’d learned from the Hekawis.

Me: Would you have seen me if I hadn’t tried to fasten it?

Trooper: Yes. I saw you when you pulled out.

When I saw that the ticket was for only $25, I was heartened. After some quick ciphering, I calculated that only came to 10 people who wouldn’t be getting a Christmas gift.

Upon further review, I saw that the court costs were $135 or some such ridiculous figure. When I politely called that to the attention of the departing trooper, he turned and said, “I don’t have anything to do with how much it costs.”

Why, you ...

Then he was gone, leaving me bluer than the flashing lights atop his cruiser.

“It’ll be a bluuuuue Christmas without youuu,” I sang to my misspent moolah.

I took care of the ticket. And cursed. I did not raise a stink or try to use my powerful position – winner of Mrs. Robinson’s 6th grade spelling bee at Leak Street School – to get out of paying it.

Brockman did, some claim, although he subsequently contended that he called a state police liaison merely to protest the “excessive” treatment, which is what he considered the arrival of two extra patrol cars to effect his citing. “They said they felt threatened by me,” Brockman told me Monday. “What was the threat level? I felt threatened by them” for calling two additional troopers for a mere seat belt violation.

That does seem excessive, bro, but still: Sometimes you just have to chill.

Trooper J.D. Allred said he called for backup because Brockman didn’t pull over immediately, but Brockman contends – and the video seems to show – that he pulled over within a minute.

“I am not used to being pulled over,” he said. “I didn’t know they were after me. I was in front of a lot of businesses on a busy street and when I moved to the right lane to let them pass,” he said, he was surprised to see the cruiser pull in behind him.

Of the troopers at the scene, Brockman can be heard asking, “Why would I get a ticket for just a few seconds of forgetting my seat belt? ... I just think it’s amazing that you can really write a ticket to a state legislator who literally was at the First Citizens Bank. ... I don’t know what you guys think this is doing.”

What it was doing was showing that the troopers enforce the law without fear or favor, something for which he, as a lawmaker, should’ve extolled them.

The freshman legislator admitted to me that he handled portions of the stop “inappropriately. I shouldn’t have focused on being a state legislator. I was angry. I was inarticulate. ... They’re saying I was trying to bully my way out of a ticket. That’s absurd. I called the liaison merely to talk about the level of threat” they said he posed to the troopers.

Brockman said most of his constituents from whom he’s heard understand why he was perturbed. I do, too – a little bit – but if I were one of his constituents or legislative advisers, I’d have just said, “Man, shut up and pay the ticket and get back to legislating.”