Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Stupid Criminal News: When Racial Profiling Hoax Goes Horribly Wrong

For many years the New Jersey State Police have been subject to accusations of racial profiling, many often trumped up charges used by self-aggrandizing "ministers" to promote their own agendas. In recent years cases have been few and far between, likely because the NJSP aren't profiling or are being more selective in who they pull over out of fear of being wrongfully accused and having to worry about their jobs. So it would be nice to see this story garner one-tenth the attention normally reserved for alleged cases of profiling.
Rodney Tanzymore thought he outsmarted the New Jersey State Police when he removed from his cell phone the fingernail-size electronic chip that holds personal information before dialing 911.

Then, authorities said Monday, he reported a completely fictitious scene at a New Jersey Turnpike rest stop in Hamilton Township on Nov. 21.

"Three men just hopped out of a black truck with, uh, guns ... It’s a Mercedes Benz. It’s like a van, like a passenger van," the caller said.

Responding to that call, troopers swarmed the vehicle Tanzymore and 10 other Queens teenagers were traveling in along with three chaperones and a driver. No weapons were found, and the black and Hispanic teenagers said they were humiliated and frightened when troopers ordered them out of the van one-by-one at gunpoint. The State Police, still trying to move beyond its history of racial profiling, found itself facing renewed allegations it was targeting motorists based on race.

All along the State Police suspected the call came from one of the van’s passengers, but it would take them three months to prove it. In the end, authorities said, Tanzymore was not as clever as he thought. He had assumed that by removing the personalized chip from his phone, his 911 call would be untraceable. He was wrong.

The tactic isn’t foolproof — phones still leave an electronic fingerprint, and police used that to track down Tanzymore, 19.

Just after sunrise Monday morning, six plainclothes officers knocked on the door of the yellow house with lace curtains where Tanzymore lives with his grandparents in Queens. Twenty minutes later, they led out their sleepy-eyed suspect, wearing jeans and a black jacket with his hands cuffed behind his back.

Tanzymore was charged with the third-degree crime of creating a false public alarm, which has a five-year maximum sentence. He was transported to a New Jersey jail Monday night.

"A false report such as this endangers everyone involved and is indeed a reckless act, one that our office will not tolerate," Acting Attorney General Paula Dow said in a statement. "We will prosecute this matter to the fullest extent of the law."
Good. Let's hope this punk gets the maximum, especially since he's already got a record for making bogus calls to 9/11, as the story later details, along with the litany of sob stories about what a trouble youth he is. Seems he's got some real issues if nobody else in the van was aware of his hoax at the time. Let's hope investigators have scrutinized the other passengers. They should probably also go through their calls to see how many contacted their lawyers immediately after the bogus incident.

Meanwhile, a local gadfly reverend who's always quick to make trouble seems heartbroken over this development.
The case involving the Queens teenagers struck a still-raw nerve at the intersection of race and policing. Last September the State Police emerged from 10 years of federal monitoring designed to eliminate racial profiling, but the November stop threatened to re-ignite tensions.

"This could have reopened all of those wounds," said Rev. Reginald Jackson, executive director of the New Jersey Black Ministers Council. "It’s very sad and frustrating."
Hard to tell from that quote whether Jackson is frustrated it's costing him TV face time or whether he actually feels bad for the police. I have a hunch it's the former.

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