If you know Jamaicans well you know that Jamaicans are going to find a way to make a living wherever they are, one way or another.
And true to form, sometimes our quest to survive does not always lend itself to portraying us in the best light possible.
Take for instance Jamaica’s taxi-operators and other public transport operators, their lawlessness and seeming refusal to obey any rules of the roads.
Or the perennial dollar vans which traversed Nostrand, Flatbush and other avenues in Brooklyn or any of the other thoroughfares in Queens and the Bronx, New York’s outer Boroughs.
Of course in a small city like Poughkeepsie, a city of just over 30’000 residents, set on the banks of the Hudson River , in the beautiful Hudson Valley, Jamaican taxi-operators are also to be found plying their trade.
With the Jamaicans are some Arabs, Hindus, and even some whites. The disruptive unruly image you may have in your head about how they may behave is not the reality in Poughkeepsie. They are forced to line up in one area by the train station and await passengers emerging from the Metro-North line.
Poughkeepsie is the last stop for the Metro-North trains even though the Amtrak trains continue further north.
Jamaicans have always complained about how they are treated by the authorities, many feel targeted by the police and by City-Hall overall.
One could argue that when forced to abide by rules many of our people are not very comfortable.
Or we may also accept that as people of color we are sometimes held to more exacting standards of accountability than others.
Regardless of where the truth lies, the emergence of Uber and Lyft have not exactly helped the taxi-operators, particularly because they all operate as a splintered group of individuals.
They never bothered to create an umbrella group under which to operate, which could potentially give them some autonomy and currency when they are forced to deal with the authorities or just for their own survival.
On the periphery of that group of operators are others, which includes Jamaicans, African-Americans, Mexicans and others who compete for the dwindling dollar of not just the railroad commuters, but for the sometimes raucous and inebriated students of the nearby Marist College.
Many of the drivers who transport students from the downtown Poughkeepsie watering holes back to the Marist campus have developed a rapport with students who have their phone numbers and call them when they need to be taken to or from the watering holes and restaurants.
As a consequence, some of those operators have large vans rather than cars.
At $3 or so per person for the short trip, a load of five or upward makes the trip worthwhile for these men who are fighting to survive.
Unfortunately for them, the Town Of Poughkeepsie which almost encircles the city, has a police department which exemplifies the enforcer mentality.
The Department’s headquarters which is a veritable quick walking distance from the city line has an almost Lilly-white workforce. Though the city itself has a mixed population the town is less so.
Below is a breakdown of the city of Poughkeepsie racial breakdown from the last census.
- White: 48.06%
- Black or African American: 37.59%
- Other race: 7.37%
- Two or more races: 5.23%
- Asian: 1.32%
- Native American: 0.39%
- Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 0.04%
According to NY hometown locator, The Town Of Poughkeepsie is a County Subdivision of Dutchess County. The subdivision has a T1 Census Class Code which indicates that the Town Of Poughkeepsie is an active county subdivision that is not coextensive with an incorporated place.
There is hardly any crime to speak of in the Town of Poughkeepsie, nevertheless, it is customary to see the Towns police department, the County Sherrif’s department, and State Police units, all doing traffic stops in the town and city.
The Town of Poughkeepsie municipal court is a beehive of activity, a veritable money pit, as residents from all around, are dragged in to pay exorbitant traffic fines cops in the three departments dreamed up.
It was one of these cops who stopped a Jamaican operator whom I will refer to as Joe Brown as he headed out to Route 9 in his van toward Marist College and was pulled over by Town of Poughkeepsie cop J Roosa.
Mister Brown explained how he was pulled over by Roosa for not using a turn signal to turn right onto Rt 9 North from Washington Street.
The fact of the matter is that there can be no left turn onto Rt 9 from where mister Brown was. It is a one-way northward only. So the idea of using a right turn signal when the only turn is a right turn becomes academic.
But that was only a guise it seemed, the officer had other ideas as to why he initiated the stop. Generally, they are so excited to pull motorists over that they do not even know the laws they are trying to enforce.
A Sheriffs’ deputy once pulled me over after I drove through a yield sign while his vehicle was at a dead stop on the red light.
He hurriedly drove through the red light and pulled me over and demanded my papers.
As I reached for my papers, I asked why he stopped me? He responded that I did not stop at the yield sign. I asked him whether he understood what yield meant? He answered in the affirmative, and so I asked him who should I have yielded to? He said his vehicle. I asked him why would I yield to him if he was at a dead stop on a red light? He smiled, wished me a good day and walked away.
Mister Brown though alone in his vehicle was not so lucky, as officer J Roosa was incensed that he told him he was recording the stop.
Mister Brown explained that the cop berated him verbally and told him he did not care about being recorded.
When an officer behaves in a manner that is disrespectful to a member of the public and tells that person he does not care, that cop is operating under a certain amount of knowledge that he and his colleagues do not have to be accountable to anyone.
After all, the heavily bearded black man declaring his right to record the illegal stop, must have enraged that white officer? How dare he challenge his authority to be lord and master over him?
Nineteen tickets later, mister Brown was sent on his way by that police officer who took an oath to protect and serve the community. But he did not do that, in a final act of denigration and humiliation, officer J Roosa allegedly threw the tickets into mister Brown’s van, instead of handing them to him.
Officers in the Town of Poughkeepsie extract a good salary from taxpayers who live in that municipality.
Some reporting indicates that they earn somewhere in the range of $84K-$95K annually. We have not been able to verify whether these numbers are indeed correct.
There is a long and detailed history of their disrespectful and racist attitudes toward people of color.
These are the abuses of power that run the length and breadth, and all across America.
In every nook and cranny of the myriad police departments which are generally always staffed with all white officers.
Luckily for mister Brown, the judge saw through the abuse of power and threw the entire lot out.
Despite having done nothing wrong mister Brown was still forced to pay $20 in court cost. Though he was brought before the court illegally, he still had to pay something to oil the machinery of injustice.
Mike Beckles is a former Jamaican police Detective corporal, a business owner, avid researcher, and blogger.
He is a black achiever honoree, and publisher of the blog chatt-a-box.com.
He’s also a contributor to several websites.
You may subscribe to his blogs free of charge, or subscribe to his Youtube channel @chatt-a-box, for the latest podcast all free to you of course.