“Papers, Please” is Un-American

soviet passport

by Thomas Knapp…….

When police in Corinth, Texas stopped Dorothy Bland to caution her against walking on the right side of the street (she was out to get some exercise with a “power walk”), Bland — a former newspaper editor and current dean of the University of Texas’s Mayborn School of Journalism — felt that she had been racially profiled and said so from the bully pulpit of a column for the Dallas Morning News.

Dashcam video of the encounter seems to contradict the claim of racial profiling. It does, however, include a disturbing bit that we should all take more notice of:

One of the officers asks Bland “do you have your ID on you real quick so I can just …” When she says she doesn’t, he follows up with “do you mind if I get your name and date of birth real quick, so I can make sure I put it with the call?”

At this point, neither officer has asserted probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed, or that Bland is a criminal. They just want her information. Why?

The quick and dirty answer is not “to make sure I put it with the call,” whatever that means.

Rather it is “so I can run a check to find out if you are a criminal with outstanding warrants that would justify me putting you in cuffs and hauling you in, even though I have no reason whatsoever to think that might be the case.”

When I was a kid — and I’m not THAT old! — “papers please” or “are your papers in order?” was a common Hollywood trope. When you saw it on film, you knew the person asking was an officer of the Gestapo in Nazi Germany or the police in the Soviet Union. In other words, you knew that the setting was a police state.

Over the years, it’s become commonplace for police to request, or even demand, government-issued identification from anyone and everyone they encounter, in any setting. It’s happened to me a number of times. For example, one time passing through one of those unconstitutional “DWI checkpoints,” the cop wanted IDs from everyone in the car, not just the driver.

The US government has spent the last 20 years or so turning its ID schemes into an internal passport system. It’s nearly impossible to travel commercially on a plane, train or bus without showing “papers.” Civilians who encounter police officers are treated as guilty of SOMETHING, until ID checks against a government databases establishes their innocence.

That may feel trivial, along the lines of “if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear,” but it’s of a piece with the transformation of American police departments into militarized occupying armies and of American government into an omnipresent, surveillance-oriented police state.

Among other bare minimum anti-police-state reforms, police officers should be required to have, and to openly state, probable cause before demanding “papers” from those they allegedly protect and serve.


Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

[optin-cat id=”26188″]

3 thoughts on ““Papers, Please” is Un-American

  1. Well sir, I don’t know about you, but every time I was pulled over by Police for breaking the Law like that racist black female was, impeding the flow of traffic is a crime, I was asked to produce identification, DL, vehicle registration, proof of insurance. She Broke The Law. And so why does the RACE CARD have to come out. I guess if you’re a racist that’s what you do. And that’s a major problem in this country, when in doubt throw out the RACE CARD. Didn’t Obama’s professor do the same thing thing. The racial thing has to end with BOTH Sides.

    1. Dr. Geno, have you not seen the latest facebook meme and videos showing research how the true, original Israelites had black skin tone…therefore ONLY Black Lives Matter.

      1. Sister, seeing that U’r a student of antiquities than you must know that Every Person on Planet Earth is the descendent of a woman from the N. African coast of the Mediterranean, so we’re all black. So what!! The bottom line is She broke a Law and then as a highly educated person, she threw down THE RACE CARD. It was her that made it a RACIAL issue. The police saw a person violating a law. They followed procedures, like police did to me when I had broken the law. She published an untruthful blowout of the incident ant then She turned it into a racial thing.
        I am a minority, my ancestry compromise 0.53% of the US population. I am First Generation immigrant from the Stepps of Western Asia & Southern Siberia. I am an educated person and I don’t feel the impulse to throw down a Uraltic Race Card every time things don’t go my way. I was brought up to take responsibility for my actions no matter how much it hurts. I think she should get over herself.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.