Sykes strikes outWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | email@example.com
There is nothing funny about racial profiling, so it is remarkable that Larry Sykes has made a joke of the offense. Sykes, one of the Toledo Public Schools Board of Education members who engaged in urban terrorism in 2011 by rushing to demolish Libbey High School, has meandered his way to Toledo City Council, frequent repository for the listless, lazy and criminally insane.
Sykes was driving home April 24 when a Toledo police officer pulled him over because he could not read Sykes’ rear license plate. The officer had an even tougher time reading Sykes’ front plate, as he did not have one. That’s illegal in Ohio, and while it’s a minor and probably common offense, we have a right to expect our elected leaders to understand and obey basic laws.
Sykes’ license plate is one of those vanity plates the narcissistic indulge themselves with, like “MCLOVIN” or “HI DEBT” or “OMG MOVE.” Sykes’ plate reads “4DRWBLK,” which he says means “For driving while black,” a reference to the heinous practice of black drivers being harassed by cops for no other reason than race. It’s a cryptic plate; without Sykes’ decoding, one might see it and think it means, “For Doctor Weeble Kay” or “Four-Door Warner Bros. Elk.”
Sykes’ history with the Toledo Clerk of Courts includes at least eight guilty dispositions for such violations as speeding (I have one or two of those), running red lights, driving an unsafe vehicle and failure of obedience to traffic control devices. That history might cause some drivers to engage in a bit of introspection, but Sykes seems to believe his history of trouble with the rules of the road has less to do with his apparently careless driving and more to do with his race.
Sykes has continually whined that he was given no reason for being pulled over, but investigators say the officer made it clear at the beginning of the stop that the unreadable license plate was the reason. Sykes was not charged with anything, so end of story, right? No, because Sykes was too indignant to let the incident go.
Sykes wrote a bitchy letter to Chief of Police William Moton, saying his April 24 experiences was attributable to “profiling.” On official City of Toledo letterhead.
“Chief Moton, as I drove away I became very angry, because he had no justification nor did he give me a decent reason for stopping me. Stating that he stopped me because he could not read my license plate, my license plate reads 4DRWBLK which stands for ‘4 driving while black’,” Sykes wrote. “My anger stems from the fact that I did not run a red light, I was not speeding, nor was I weaving or driving recklessly. So why would he need to check the license plate or what cause would he have had, the only reason I can come up with, is that I was profiled.
“I would like an explanation as to why this young officer would search for a reason to pull me over or look at my license plate. My license plates are big and bold, and it makes no sense why he would not be able to read it, I’ve had these license plates for the last 20 years, and it is because I have been profiled so many times and stopped for driving while black. I wasn’t giving a citation, warning or anything, just stopped and delayed for no apparent reason. The only justification I was given for being stopped was that he could not read my license plate.
“I would like a full investigation into this situation, regarding why I was stopped and research as to if others are being treated the same way. This does not make for good police community relations, if an individual can be stopped simply because an officer cannot read a license plate clearly. Furthermore, I would like to know if this is a policy of the police department that allows its officers to randomly stop people without just cause.”
For good measure, Sykes sent the letter to Mayor D. Michael Collins and councilwomen Theresa Gabriel and Paula Hicks-Hudson, a jerk move I suppose was meant to intimidate or impress Chief Moton. I wonder if any city employee time was used to type or send the letter, and if that time would have been better served for citizens and taxpayers than petty vendettas.
It’s not the first time Sykes has claimed a conflict with Toledo police. In 1989 he accused police of physically abusing him during an arrest for drunken driving; that allegation was described by an investigator quoted in The Blade as “frivolous.”
Racial profiling is a very real and very serious issue. But as in any case when someone cries wolf when none is present, the seriousness is diluted for the times when it does happen. Sykes should man up for his record of driving violations and blame them on himself, not his race.
Blaming TPD and making his inability to follow the law a race issue is reprehensible, irresponsible and aggressively offensive.
At a May 14 news conference, Sykes said he claimed “profiling” without using the qualifier of race, but that’s disingenuous and lame. In this post-Trayvon Martin world, such raw emotional claims must only be invoked when they merit the consequences their perpetrators deserve.
“Profiled means like if you stop at the light and turn and go too fast,” Sykes said, backpedaling so hard he time-traveled Lance Armstrong back into Sheryl Crow’s bed.
That is clearly not what Sykes meant in his tattletale letter to Chief Moton and Mayor Collins. It’s like the Boy Who Cried Wolf getting busted and claiming he was just being a concerned shepherd.
Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association, has called for Sykes to resign. If Sykes had any insight into the damage and trouble he has caused the local men and women in blue, he would. His halfhearted and revisionist apology only adds insult to injury.
The voters and taxpayers of Toledo should join the chorus and demonstrate that there is no place in our city for such reckless behavior — behind the wheel or in office.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and news director for Newsradio 1370 WSPD. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: Chief of Police William Moton, City of Toledo letterhead, councilwomen Theresa Gabriel, Larry Sykes, Libbey High School, Mayor D. Michael Collins, Paula Hicks-Hudson, post-Trayvon Martin, Toledo City Council, Toledo Clerk of Courts, Toledo Public Schools Board of Education, urban terrorism