At about 1:45pm on Thursday, August 20th, we had just parked on St. Andrews Place, across from the park, when a police car raced onto the field and came to a halt in front of a man sitting on the player’s bench behind the wire fencing. The man was alone facing the sun and the windswept, deserted open field.
Two officers with body armor and swaggering manners exited the police car with a third left inside.
They approached the man who stood with the aid of a cane, and from the distance they appeared to check him out, and returned to the car. Several minutes later, one of the officers gave the man something and the blue and white left in a TV wannabee screech of rubber.
We went over to the gentleman, who was now gathering up his cane and plastic bag of worldly possessions and asked him what had happened.
“Sir, I was sitting here with a bag of chips and a beer, sir, and they gave me a citation for opened alcohol in public. I have to go to court, sir.” His name was Mike Latimer, a middle-aged man who spoke with the smiling resignation of a man who has come to expect the regular unfairness of life.
He was recovering from an operation, and using the cane because his foot was in a cast. Going to court would not be a small thing nor is the fine he’ll have to pay.
Right then he was on his way to the hospital and as he left I asked him about the fresh-spilled coffee and the Dunkin Donuts cups that had been left where the patrol car was stopped. “Was that there when they got here?” “No sir, it was not.”
The City Administration has got to get its act straight on equal policing habits. When white guys having wine in the park can be seen laughing and toasting on the cover of The New York Times, and one black man with a beer, the only soul on a two-acre expanse, is reason for an armed response by three men in a car, then something is wrong and needs to be fixed.
Either stop writing tickets for open alcohol in public, or start writing them at the next concert in Central Park. Enforce the law equally or not at all.