Judging with common sense

Published 10:49 pm Tuesday, December 27, 2011

In the course of a year’s police work, the search of a vehicle is an unremarkable event. Frankly, given the number of crimes reported on Hunter Street during the past year, the simple fact of the police being present on that street should by now have become unremarkable.

A search of police records reveals that police have responded to incidents on this street, which exists for a mere three and a half blocks or so, more than two dozen times during the past year. Incidents have ranged from arson to auto theft, with a liberal sprinkling of petit larceny, assault and drug offenses to boot. Either there is a crime problem on this short street, or the police are unfairly targeting innocent residents of and visitors to that street.

Terry Towns, who goes by the name “X-man X-con” in his life as a music producer and rap artist, would have the people of Suffolk believe that the problem on Hunter Street is with the police. After having his car searched by police officers earlier this month, Towns posted video online of the search and leveled an accusation of racial profiling. He claims the fact that officers found nothing illegal, bolstered by the video he shot during the search, proves his case.

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According to police, there was probable cause for them to initiate a search of Mr. Towns’ luxury SUV parked on the side of the street and of the men standing around it. Officers said they saw someone run away when they drove by, and they smelled what they thought was marijuana when they came back to talk to those who remained by the vehicle.

Mr. Towns claims he and the others were preparing to evaluate a potential new act’s CD when the police showed up. He can be heard protesting the search throughout the video and repeatedly proclaiming that he is “too legit to quit.” He quickly put his video online and made public charges of profiling and harassment. He claims he’s a businessman who was literally minding his own business at the time of the search.

Which might very well be true. But the average person cannot be expected to ignore the checkered history of that community when judging whether the police might have been warranted in their actions. Nor can they be expected to ignore Mr. Towns’ self-chosen nickname, “X-man X-con,” when they judge the trustworthiness of his account.

The average citizen might expect a reformed ex-convict to be somewhat shy about his criminal history. But Mr. Towns — with prison time served and suspended time outstanding on charges stemming from an armed robbery — doesn’t seem timid about sharing his past nor about trading upon notoriety in order to further his financial future.

Suffolk’s police department has taken the accusations seriously enough to initiate an internal investigation of the incident, but that’s not necessarily an indication that there’s any real merit to the charge, only that the department is responding professionally to it.

Police officers are accused of all sorts of things by all sorts of people. Occasionally they are guilty of the things they’re accused of. That’s why it’s important for a department’s internal investigations unit to be incorruptible and above reproach. We’re confident that department in Suffolk will come to the appropriate conclusions, despite the pressure brought to the issue by folks who are just looking to make a buck off of the situation.

And we’re confident enough about the public’s common sense to have published the story without associated commentary. People will judge Mr. Towns and the police and determine whom to believe based on their own experiences and on the evidence at hand. Mr. Towns has provided ample evidence on which to base that decision. It seems doubtful that the officers involved are losing much sleep over the investigation.