Ol’ Clark, we hardly knew ye — for which we should be eternally grateful.
Ol’ Clark is how Bill Clark, a veteran op-ed writer for the Columbia Daily Tribune, refers to himself in a column published June 30 titled “Ol’ Clark has run-in with the law.”
In it, Clark, who is 84 (definitely “ol'”) tells of the harrowing-sounding ordeal he claims he experienced when he was stopped by local police for a traffic violation (which Ol’ Clark claims, moreover, was bogus):
My stop had been total, not rolling. I turned right and headed toward Interstate 70. Within 100 yards, red lights flashed behind me, seeming to come from nowhere. I pulled over to allow an emergency vehicle to pass, stopping in the intersection with Bull Run Drive. Then I realized the lights were for me.
I was now blocking traffic onto Bull Run, so I rolled slowly forward to a shoulder wide enough for both vehicles. The move made sense.
I’m lucky I didn’t get shot. Sirens wailed and when I stopped, two officers were out of the sheriff’s vehicle. When I reached over to turn off the radio and then take my wallet out of my pocket to produce the driver’s license and insurance card, I realized my hands were not at the top of my steering wheel. Danger lurked and official arrogance was to follow.
Unfortunately for Clark, we live in the era of dash cams. In many locales, they are mandatory. And once Clark’s story went viral, Boone County Sheriff Dwayne Carey released the 11-minute video of Clark’s stop, a highlight reel from which follows:
Clark’s perfidy put the Daily Tribune in a tough spot. Last Wednesday, the paper’s managing editor, Charles Westmoreland, had a chance to view the dashcam footage. The next day, he published a 600-word apology to readers and the police that included this:
Clark has been a columnist with the Tribune since 1956, and has published more than 2,600 columns in our paper since. He’s done much good over the years for Columbia and Boone County as a whole. His commitment to supporting diversity, youth athletics and social awareness has earned him widespread recognition. These facts certainly complicate matters, especially for me.
That said, I cannot defend Clark’s column or the facts as he presented them. In the video I saw two professional deputies performing their job by the book, and a somewhat confused and irritated motorist, unaware of what he had done to draw the attention of local law enforcement. It certainly wasn’t worth writing a scathing column about, and the Tribune should not have published it. For that I apologize to the Boone County Sheriff’s Department and readers who feel they were misled by Clark’s column.
The publisher’s note ends with the advice that Clark has been suspended indefinitely “pending further review.” It’s hard to know what more there is to review, but maybe that’s the editor’s way of lessening the eventual blow to Clark when he is told he has outlived his usefulness to the paper.
So what was Clark’s purpose in writing his fictional account of a routine traffic stop in the first place? That comes out in his op-ed. After writing about the temptation cops must feel when they see a fender “full of liberal bumper stickers,” he writes:
I’ve just come to appreciate even more the words of those minorities when they speak of harassment and police arrogance. I had a good dose of arrogance on this evening and, in my rear view mirror, the image of the second officer out of the car, his hands ready in case I made the wrong move. My life seemed to be in danger.
I fully understand how a person can lose their [sic] respect for law officers. When you are in the shoes of the minority, you learn a lot more about their journey.
When you get down to cases, Clark is guilty of fabricating another hoax to help perpetuate the liberal narrative that police officers are rednecks who get their jollies by using excessive force.