Steven Seagal, Lawman, PR Flak for Racist Police Force

Steven Seagal has been a deputy with the Jefferson Parish Sheriffs Office for two decades. Now he's filming a reality show with A&E to put a spotlight on law enforcement in southern Louisiana. News outlets across the country have been reporting on this using a "gosh-isn't-that-neat" approach for months now, drumming up an audience for the show's debut.

Unfortunately the spotlight is being shone on JPSO's carefully crafted good guy image. An article in today's SF Chroncile quotes Seagal, acting now more as a PR man for the Sheriff than as a deputy;

"I believe it's important to show the nation all the positive work being accomplished here in Louisiana - to see the passion and commitment that comes from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office in this post-Katrina environment."

A few months ago I had a run-in with the Jeff. Parish cops. I'll preface this story by saying I'm a white man, college educated, from California, and I generally have all the socioeconomic privileges that keep me from being a target of police profiling. When these JPSO cops stopped me though, I feared for my safety. I was simply riding my bike along the River levee and decided to cruise through Kennar. Big mistake. The two JPSO deputies that followed me for three blocks and then pulled me over first physically threatened me when I asked, "is there a reason why you stopped me?" Then after searching me and running my ID, they informed me to leave the area or else: "this is a crack neighborhood." They said. "White people don't come back here." I was riding not four block off Kennar's main strip.

The message was, 'don't ride through black areas, white boy'; 'don't come into Jeff. Parish at all.' JPSO enforces segregation in order to further criminalize the black poor that live in Kennar and other parts of the mostly white Parish. I was outraged but powerless. Seeing Seagal playing police man to bolster JPSO's image upsets me deeply. That is a terribly troubled and violent police force that need a different kind of exposure.

But it upsets me even more given the draconian way JPSO treats black men and women. My run-in is tame by any comparison. Take the case of James Williams. James was riding in a car with a white woman, Pam Nath, when a Jeff. Parish cop pulled them over. Again, another JPSO deputy decided that whites and blacks together, in practically any context, cannot be tolerated and must involve criminal dealings, so he interrogated James and Pam, eventually ordering James from the vehicle, running his ID, and finally arresting him. According to James:

"I was the passenger in a car that was pulled over in Harahan for minor traffic violations. Apparently, I angered the officer by asking why he wanted my driver’s license rather than the driver of the car. Next, the officer ordered me out of the car in a visibly agitated manner and proceeded to both verbally and physically abuse me. He then arrested me without telling me – or the driver of the car – the reason. I was later charged with “Battery on a police officer” and “Resisting Arrest,” although I did not fight with or resist any officer on that night.”
Check out James Willaims' video on the arrest and his struggle to have the bogus charges dismissed.

And consider writing to A&E's producers if you're also upset with this show's focus. There's also an online forum on A&E's web site where complaints and criticisms can be logged.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this.

I've scene the commercials for this show and found them to be offensive; worse than that Dog bountyhunter show. I can't imagine why they would think that anyone could find police harassment and brutality entertaining.

Anonymous said...

Well steven and his crew give alot fo respect and if you are in a drug area they just checkign to see fi you got drugs that is there job.