It can sometimes be tempting to dismiss the psychological and traumatic impact of racism, outside of the horrific inflection points of bigotry that directly result in the loss of life.
But the story of 50-year-old Darren Cole, as reported by the Chicago Tribune, is a poignant reminder of the deleterious impacts on one’s quality of life in a country where racist police violence is an all-too-common reality—and systemic issues can leave you very much on the edge for fear of not knowing how an encounter with the cops may end.
On Thursday, Cole filed a lawsuit against the city of Chicago stemming from his allegation that Chicago police officers have stopped him at least 60 times over the past 15 years, all due to a case of mistaken identity that no one in the system has seen it necessary to correct.
According to Cole, there appears to be an open-warrant in the police department’s database for someone who shares his name and his date of birth. As a result, since 2006 and as recently as December of last year, every time Cole drives a vehicle in the city he is at risk of being stopped and detained by police. Cole alleges in his lawsuit that during those encounters cops have verbally and physically assaulted him, punched him and pointed guns at him—but they have never ended up charging him. He says the mistaken arrests happen so frequently that when he is taken into police stations, other officers will point out to their colleagues that the warrant isn’t actually for him.
That hasn’t led police to update their database to reflect that he isn’t the Darren Cole they are looking for, however. The man who the warrant is meant for is reportedly wanted for driving on a suspended license.
“Mr. Cole has pleaded with CPD officials to correct their records to reflect that he is not the Darren Cole with the outstanding warrant,” said the lawsuit.
“CPD and City officials have ignored Mr. Cole’s pleas and further ignored his counsel’s efforts to resolve this matter without resorting to litigation. The abuse and harassment Mr. Cole experiences at the hands of CPD has had a devastating impact on his personal and professional life and has instilled in him a fear of being harassed whenever he leaves his home.”
Cole has often resorted to taking public transportation rather than driving, or otherwise just stays at home to reduce the risk of being apprehended by police. When he does drive, he makes sure to be off the roads by 5 p.m. so as to avoid police checkpoints. The fear fueled by the police’s targeting of him for over a decade and counting caused Cole to be unable to visit his dying father and continues to make it fraught for him to visit his elderly mother, according to the lawsuit.
“It hurts so bad to talk about it now. My voice is shivery right now,” Cole told the Tribune. “I’m very scared. I’m a grown man and I got a curfew. I have to be in the house early. This right here, I’m traumatized.”
Who wouldn’t be?