Racial profiling all too prevalent, black leader says

Willie Hyman speaks about police treatment of African Americans

SPREADING THE WORD<br>Willie Hyman agrees with Don Imus this time around.

Willie Hyman agrees with Don Imus this time around.

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

“I don’t tolerate abuse,” said a defiant Willie Hyman, whose dark, weathered skin topped off with a tuft of white hair suggests decades of fighting a system he says doesn’t work for him.

Hyman, who has served for 30 years as president of the Butte Community Coalition, a group that calls attention to injustice toward African Americans, stood on the steps of the Chico City Council building Tuesday morning for a press conference. Fires nearby kept most of the media busy, turning the conference into more of an informal chat. He didn’t seem to mind, though; at least his message was being heard.

“What Don Imus said is that blacks are being picked on by cops,” Hyman said. He was referring to a remark on Imus’ radio show Sunday, during which a mention of Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam Jones’ latest arrest prompted Imus to ask, “What color is he?” Black, was the response. “Well, there you go,” he quipped back.

The following day, Imus, who was fired from CBS Radio last year for referring to a women’s college basketball team as “nappy-headed hos,” clarified his remarks by saying that black people are arrested unnecessarily because of the color of their skin.

“He doesn’t go far enough,” Hyman said. “Blacks are picked on by racist, corrupt, violent, evil, terrorist, skinhead cops.”

Those adjectives were like a mantra that he repeated again and again. Even black cops fit that mold, he explained, adding, “A cop’s a cop.” Police in Butte County, and indeed the entire United States, are prejudiced against black people, Hyman asserted.

As an example, Hyman told a story about a black man sitting on a bench at the Chico train depot. A couple of police officers came by, saw him, “stopped, questioned and harassed him,” and warned if he was still there when they returned in an hour they’d arrest him. As a test, Hyman said, the coalition planted a couple of Caucasians on the same bench. When the cops came around, they didn’t say a word.

“It has nothing to do with justice,” Hyman said.

“I haven’t spoken with Willie,” Chico Police Chief Bruce Hagerty said, “but I know he feels this way. I can guarantee it 100 percent that there is no such thing as racial profiling in Chico.”

Furthermore, Hyman continued, once in the courtroom, black defendants aren’t adequately represented. Of Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey, Hyman added: “The DA is the chief pig of the pigs.”

“That shows the level of discourse that Mr. Hyman is capable of,” responded Ramsey. As far as defense is concerned, he added: “The public defenders here are longtime attorneys. They’re among the most experienced criminal attorneys in the county—they’re more experienced than the majority of my staff.”

Ramsey said he hasn’t seen racial profiling occur in Butte County. “I’m very watchful of that,” he said.

Be that as it may, Hyman’s mission remains clear. He even has created a “profile form” that he asks fellow African Americans to fill out and return to him if they are ever pulled over or arrested.

“[Cops] don’t bother me,” he said. “I don’t tolerate it.”