(This article was originally published by Farm Fresh Media. Used With permission)
A couple of months ago, Pres. Judge Dennis Reinaker was stopped in East Lampeter township in Lancaster County.
Now, with the advent of summer, the “Reinaker incident” has been reported in both Lancaster Newspapers (LNP) and the York Daily Record, as well as by PennLive and a variety of national news sources, including the Washington Post. Reinaker also did a follow up TV interview at WGAL.
Meanwhile, the police cam footage is all over the Internet.
In it, we can see that Reinaker exits the vehicle soon after being pulled over, with his turn signal still blinking, and walks aggressively toward the officer, yelling at him about why he’s being pulled over.
“You better check the registration on this license plate soon, Mister.” The judge snaps before getting back in his vehicle.
He has all the gravitas of an enraged boss dressing down a junior employee, which, in a sense, is really how things are done.
This footage, obtained by the local newspaper mysteriously, is a rare glimpse into how elected officials really view their positions not as servants of the general public, but as their masters.
Any average citizen doesn’t feel good getting pulled over, but they don’t go charging out of their vehicles and lecturing the patrol officer unless they want a healthy (or unhealthy, as it were) dose of police violence leveled their way.
In the WGAL interview, subsequently, Reinaker says it “doesn’t paint a very pleasant picture of me.”
But he said he didn’t think there was any “basis” to pulling him over.
Isn’t that for the police department to decide?
“I have learned to try to control my irritation and frustration when situations like that present themselves,” Reinaker told WGAL.
That’s good for Reinaker’s blood pressure, at least – but there’s really no acknowledgment there of the difference between the experience of an average citizen and the judge himself in a traffic stop.
“Now imagine a black guy storming out of his truck at a cop in Lancaster.”
We don’t really have to imagine it, because the news is all around us.
Although the Fraternal Order of Police pushes back against actual accountings of fatal force – these incidents are so routine that they’ve become shorthand in our social and political system. Ferguson. St. Louis. Baltimore.
You even have bizarre stories like this, where after a fatal police shooting, the department chose to fire the officer who did not shoot to kill a black man because he didn’t feel that he represented a threat to his life.
It’s much more routine for police officers to simply claim psychological fear and use that pretext to fire and kill.
As the body count piles up, those like Reinaker who feel like they own the police are able to manifest that ownership confidently, without any fear or concern.
In his book, “The Divide,” journalist Matt Taibbi writes about the two different systems in America – one for the rich and powerful, and another one for everyone else.
“For a country founded on the idea that rights are inalienable and inherent from birth, we’ve developed a high tolerance for conditional rights and conditional citizenship,” Taibbi writes. “Our prison population, in fact, is now the biggest in the history of human civilization. There are more people in the United States either on parole or in jail today (around 6 million total) than there ever were at any time in Stalin’s gulags. For what it’s worth, there are also more black men in jail right now than there were in slavery at its peak.”
The Reinaker incident is a simple case study in privilege – and this judge is already seeing a concerted effort not to reelect someone who takes his responsibility as an average citizen in such a cavalier way.
We also chose to take a second look at this example because of the judge’s position in a civil system that we have to deal with all too often – where divorce and family law become cudgels of the system to beat down families, where parents have children taken away at the whim of a cruel agent, and where too many average citizens simply have little recourse to defend themselves from an aggressive burea-o-cracy based on the idea that “poor people don’t count.”
Judges simply have so much power – that we feel they need to be held to a higher, not a lower, standard. That means anticipating scrutiny of their legal affairs, and, ideally, working to reform a system slanted against the poor.
For that matter, we also have our eye on another corner of the local “injustice” system where District Attorney Craig Stedman is coming under fire for a lack of transparency in how civil asset forfeiture funds are used within the county.
Again, it seems that the powerful don’t like to give up their “perks” or be asked to subject themselves to the parts of the system that face the rest of us – in Reinaker’s case, the routine ire of a traffic stop.
Keep an eye on our sites as we go to bat for the families – for those who can’t afford fancy lawyers, and who are not fancy lawyers themselves. Read up on “Gideon’s Way” where we document the deficiencies in the public defender system in U.S. Courts. We are here to shine a light on some of the disturbing realities of modern day America – join us!