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Profiling the police does not end well

An Ashland woman who stopped on Interstate 5 to observe a traffic stop of a black motorist by white police officers did so out of sincere concern, but her actions caused an unnecessary distraction for the police, and a judge correctly found her guilty of interfering with a police officer.

Keely Meagan stopped on the side of Interstate 5 near the south Medford interchange last September when she observed a black motorist with his hands on top of his head being questioned by Oregon State Police troopers. Meagan said she stopped to observe because of reports elsewhere in the country of white officers shooting blacks.

The officer cited her for interfering with a police officer because he was distracted by the safety risk she posed by stopping along the freeway. She had stopped her car near the off-ramp, and passing motorists were not moving into the left lane as they should have by law because they needed to remain to the right to take the exit ramp, thus causing an unsafe situation.

Jackson County Circuit Judge David Hoppe correctly noted that Meagan had the right to observe police performing their duties. But he said she created an unsafe situation in doing so.

It's worth asking why Meagan felt compelled to stop and observe merely because a white officer had stopped a black motorist. There have been no reports locally of white officers shooting black people, and there was nothing about that traffic stop to indicate it was not legitimate. If the officer had been black, or the motorist white, presumably she would not have stopped.

If white police officers stop drivers of color solely because they are not white, we call that racial profiling. Meagan's decision to stop, prompted solely by the color of the police officer, could be considered a form of profiling as well.

Hoppe decided not to hand out any punishment to Meagan, which was reasonable. She did lose her job as a driving instructor, which also seems reasonable, considering that her actions posed a safety hazard to herself and to other motorists — not exactly setting a good example for student drivers.