Racial profiling is no joke as Ronnie Gaines discovered this past October 6, at 330pm in Pensacola. Gaines, at the time had just left a client’s home on Jackson Street and on his way to visit another client on Massachusetts Avenue. (Reggie was a Transition Specialist/case worker that represented high risk juveniles in the court system of Juvenile Justice. He was employed by Twin Oaks Development Corp under the umbrella of a company called Project Connect. “I was on my way to see another client when I was pulled over and told, after asking, that I was not in any trouble but I was stopped for an obscured tag. He could not see the yellow sticker on my tag.” Gaines believed that the stop was because of his skin color and the fact that he was a young Black male.
“I was asked to get out of my car and I asked again what was the ’probable cause’ for asking me this? After continuously being told to get out of my car, I did so, arms held high and asked again. The officers began searching my car saying, after they handcuffed me, that they smelled marijuana. As I sat in the back of their car, being honest, “I told them that the night before, I picked up a friend who had been having a bad day and I allowed him to smoke to ease his mind. But there was nothing in my car.” From there the scene went downhill.
As the officers searched his car, they found a plastic bag which he explained that it was weight protein because he worked out. “They took it and I explained that it was weight protein. It was yellowish in color, so I thought they would be able to see that.”
The officers tested the contents and it tested “positive” for a controlled substance. They arrested Gaines and as a result, he lost his job and his reputation was tarnished. “I work with juveniles and it broke my heart that I now had to go through this and it was a nightmare. Gaines bailed out only to find that his vehicle had been impounded and with no way to get in his home, had to then get a locksmith to regain entrance. On October 27, 2017 when he appeared in court, he received a letter dated October 25th stating that the substance that was tested was a non-controlled substance and it was an off yellowish power. His case was not prosecuted. It was dismissed. “I never saw a judge.” He stated.
Gaines has reapplied for his job and as of November 20th, he resumed his employment with Project Connect. “When I talk to my young people now, I feel it will be important to share with them how to interact with the police; how to conduct themselves properly, to know their rights in a situation, things they should say and things they should not say; to make sure that they know that if they have not done anything wrong, just be confident and secure in the situation. But be careful and know that justice will prevail if they are innocent.”
“I’m very thankful. I give thanks to my most High above. My God is a great God. He has seen me through this entire process and to have such strong family support; not only from my co-workers and friends, but from the community as well. It has made me a much stronger person and also a stronger community leader here in Pensacola.
As a result of this incident, Gaines has also accepted second employment as an Employment Specialist for the Urban Development Center with Dr. Jessica Griffin and John Rigbsy. “Good things do come to those who persevere,” he said.
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