The following newspaper article was written by the present writer following the civil unrest in Columbia, South Carolina as the result of a 17 year old black male who was shot and killed by Columbia Police while resisting arrest. The author recounted a police incident that occurred on Saturday July 25, 1981. The article was originally published in the University of South Carolina newspaper, The Gamecock on October 2, 1981, page 2. The author is the first black journalist to become a Ph.D Candidate in English at USC.
The purpose of a law enforcement officer is to serve mankind; to safeguard human lives and property, to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the constitutional rights of all men, women, and children to life, liberty, equality and justice.
I have been a resident of Columbia, South Carolina for 25 years. And in that 25 years I have been stopped by the Columbia Police five times: Once for changing lanes improperly, once for failing to come to a complete stop at an intersection, once for riding a bicycle with improper lighting, once for driving too fast for conditions, and once for being in a building in a building after normal closing hours. As the president of the Representative Student Council, a student journalist and editor for The Blue Print, a Senator in Palmetto Boy State, and a starting center at Dreher High School in Columbia, South Carolina, I took responsibility for my actions and obeyed the police.
In each of the times I was stopped, with the exception of the last time, I felt I was treated properly, I answered the officer’s questions and did what they asked me to do. But things were a bit different on the last arrest.
On Saturday July 25, 1981, I crossed the University of South Carolina campus and stopped momentarily at a building directly across the street from my office at WNOK, where I serve as a Weekend Anchor, to use the men’s room.
I was in the men’s room using it, preparing to return to WNOK, when three Columbia Police Officers walked into the men’s room, night sticks in hand, hands on guns, looking at me, in my state of undress, telling me that I was to leave immediately.
As we crossed Gervais Street I looked up and noticed that the patrol car was parked directly in front of WNOK. Tom Anderson, the operations manager at WNOK, had called the police. I was aghast. Anderson was standing in front of the station as the officers brought me out. He was just as amazed as I when he saw who the officers had arrested.
When I ran into the building to use the men’s room it was roughly 10 minutes before the building was closed to the public. A maid who saw me enter the building thought that I was a rapist, or burglar, or even worse, she thought that I was a murderer.
After Tom Anderson identified me and the police officers realized that I was a respected journalist for The Columbia Record, the Weekend Anchor for WNOK, a guest of the Governor and the Senior Senator for the State of South Carolina, they immediately released me and apologized for arresting me.
All the time that I was in the building they were afraid that I was armed and at the moment they forced me off the toilet they considered me to be dangerous. That is why they wanted me to get out of the building and why they didn’t want me to stall by talking. I remained silent until they took me to the police car and Anderson identified me.
It took me four weeks to get over my initial hurt and anger, I wrote letters, talked to my friend and congressman [South Carolina Congressman Floyd Spence] who contacted the police department, and stewed in my humiliation. I was half naked when the police ordered me out of the stall.
The night of the arrest I found myself laughing because it all seemed so absurd, yet it was all so serious. I thought if I had ran or resisted the police officers I may have been killed.
The Columbia community is upset over the death of a Columbian who ran from the police and was shot in the back. You wrote an editorial about the shooting in today’s paper (page 2, Sept. 18  issue) which prompted me to write this response and to relate my incident of this summer.
What I would make very clear is that no one likes to get arrested. Regardless of wealth, race, nationality, or sex…no one likes to be arrested and chained and taken somewhere against their will. I think where the problem begins is how each person reacts to their arrest. Some talk, some curse the arresting officers, some become violent and fight the arresting officer, others try to escape by fleeing.
The lesson I learned from my arrest this summer [Saturday July 25, 1981] is to remain calm. Never resist. And don’t talk to arresting officers save to answer their questions. Remain silent. Let the police do their duty. They were called to the building to arrest me.
There is always a logical reason why you have been arrested. Police don’t stop and arrest innocent victims for no reason. As in my case the reason was both logical and understandable. I only needed to be patient.
The Columbia Police Department has an internal affairs office which investigates unethical practices on the part of any police officer. Police have a tremendous task protecting and serving the public. I think they are also capable of eliminating those officers who refuse to live up to the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics quoted above.
You asked if a recent police action will cut out the cancer that appears to be rotting the credibility of the Columbia Police Department. I think the only action that will keep the Columbia Police Department free of the so called “cancer” is the constant concern of the Columbia community. Not only when a Columbian is killed by police, but every day as the as the difficulty of running a police department becomes more complex and where misunderstandings between the police and the public are bound to occur.
The Law Enforcement Code of Ethics states, “I will never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, animosities, or friendships to influence my decisions. With no compromise for crime and with relentless prosecution of criminals I will enforce the law courteously and appropriately without fear or favor, malice or ill will, never employing unnecessary force or violence and never accepting gratuities.
I believe that some officers of the Columbia Police Department may deviate from this code of ethics; however, I also believe that there are many good police officers who will live and die for these principles. I hope this helps you to understand Law Enforcement better.
Charles Metze II
Former Law Enforcement Correspondent for The Columbia Record.
This article was originally published on October 2, 1981 in the University of South Carolina newspaper The Gamecock following unrest in the city after a 17 year old black male was shot and killed by the Columbia Police while resisting arrest.
On February 7, 1990, two weeks after serving an executor of his father’s estate and being in charging of making funeral arrangements for his burial following his death on January 23, 1990, from lung cancer, the present writer as a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow and a GIS Scholar in South Carolina left Columbia to begin research work at the Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Library of Congress, and the National Archives on the Life and Literary Legacy of Daniel Alexander Payne and African-American writers from 1835 to 1990.
His step-mother, Cynthia Metze took care of his son, Charles Metze III, while his wife, Anne Metze, worked as a stylist for Command Performance on the University of South Carolina campus. Cynthia Metze was concerned about her grandson being moved to Washington because of the violence reported in a CBS special with Dan Rather which called Washington the murder capitol of the world.
While under contract with a university in South Carolina, Howard University offered the present writer a Visiting Professorship in 1990 that existed until August 22, 2000, making the writer the longest serving Visiting Professor in Howard University history. On July 12, 2000, Diane C. Lancaster approved the transfer of the retirement account that made it possible for the author to return to Africa where he was appointed chancellor of the first private journalism and Communications University in Bamako, Mali, West Africa on October 8, 2000.
During his 10 years at Howard University he became close friends with DC Police Chief Fred Thomas and his wife, Poet Gigi Thomas. In fact, Gigi Thomas served as a guest lecturer in his literature classes at Howard University. His son graduated from Howard University summa cum laude and with his Master’s Degree in Fine Arts on May 14, 2013. Gigi Thomas was a great poet and an even greater friend. She is missed.
Police Chief Charles Ramsey wrote to the present writer after Charles Metze III was attacked by neighborhood kids in March 2000 as he returned to his father’s faculty residence at Howard University because he was wearing a private school uniform. The kids broke his son’s glasses when they attacked him. It was the first and only violent altercation that his son experienced in living 25 years in D.C. MPD increased patrols in the area and there were no further incidents.
Police Chief Fred Thomas invited the present writer to speak at the funeral for Gigi Thomas on February 11, 2009, at Mt. Oak Methodist Church. Gigi Thomas passed away on Saturday January 17, 2009. The police officers who attended the funeral talked about the fraternal order of police that signifies pride, honor, and service. It existed in Gigi’s time and it still exists today. Police have a difficult job and it is important to let them do their duty.
The Columbia Record does not exist anymore. Going down the road where all print newspapers will eventually go, The Columbia Record went out of business on April Fool’s Day 1988. Fortunately, the present writer had resigned from The Columbia Record to return to graduate school to earn his teaching degree and was a college professor teaching English and journalism when The Columbia Record closed its doors forever and went out of business. usedview.com filled the void left by print newspapers like The Columbia Record. usedview.com is a great online newspaper and is the future of journalism in America.