As the Houston Chronicle reported today, the city of Bellaire has hired an outside consultant to review whether there's evidence of racial profiling in who the police department pulls over on traffic stops.
The announcement came in the wake, of course, of the police shooting of resident Robert Tolan, gunned down by Bellaire cops in his driveway for no discernible good reason. After the incidents minorities came forward to talk of being singled out by police in the lily-white suburb.
The Chron quoted Tolan's attorney, Geoffrey Berg, as praising the move. "We are gratified," Berg told the Chron. "They've come along way from absolute and instant denial to recognition that they may have a problem."
He said the same thing to us, but he also added something further: He's pretty much expecting the report to be a whitewash.
"I would be very surprised if this were truly an objective study," he told Hair Balls. "But it would be a pleasant surprise."
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Berg says "certainly, it's a PR move...I don't have a whole lot of confidence any of this will turn out to be legitimate. It's a PR move that was done because the ordinary people have let the city of Bellaire know that this situation is intolerable, and that's forced them to act, at least to take a first step."
Berg says he and his colleagues "are moving forward" with plans to sue the city. He also says the Tolan family has yet to hear any apology from the city or the mayor.
"You would think that as the mayor of a city in which a citizen was shot by the police, you would be a lot less worried about covering your ass than whether your citizen was OK," he says. "Not just as a politician, but as a human."
-- Richard Connelly