The Right to Be Forgotten: Sixty-Nine

“There’s a lot of problems with people killing each other that we can’t solve. Maybe this is one we can solve,” Shameika says. “Evelyn came to my house yesterday and I wanted to shut the door in her face, to tell the truth. I thought, what could this nice, white lady know about me, about Curtis. She said she knew only what she’d heard on the news and then she told me that she had a different story.

“Our stories are really different. Her boy took his life and my husband’s was taken from him, but one thing was the same: Both Jacob and Curtis were put in bad places because of information that people had no right to. I agree with Evelyn that her child’s video should have been recalled, taken back somehow. She agrees with me that Curtis’ criminal record from a decade ago served no good purpose in that police car.

“We’re told time and again that information goes out and has a life its own. Maybe it’s time to change that. It is. It is time to change that.” Shameika steps back but accepts no gestures from the others on stage. E offers none.

Silently, I thank E for leading the public discussion on the bill. Not only because it takes the heat from me but because Senator X needs all the support he can get.

Pundits dissect the women’s words, bringing in so-called experts to twist the bill’s meaning. Birch assigns two people to watch different channels and write a report of the overall message. To me, Kevin, and Nan, Birch gives marching orders: apply the bill to criminal pasts.

“It’s a matter of public record,” Nan says. “It’s impossible.”

“Even if we could prove somehow that the criminal record was a contributing factor to Sloan’s death—,” Kevin says, trailing away into thought.

“Open records,” Nan adds to the brainstorming.

“Precedent, too,” Kevin says. “And safety. Police have a right to know who they’re dealing with, don’t they?”

“Do they?” I ask. “In an ordinary traffic stop, does a police officer have an authorized right or need to know distant criminal history? I mean, we’re not talking about someone who was arrested recently on some kind of weapons charge.”

“Do we know what the history was? The lady—,” Kevin says.

“Shameika,” I say. “You need to keep saying her name. She’s in this now and she may be the best capital we have.”

“Fine, whatever, Shameika kept saying the criminal history was ten years out, but has that been confirmed? Maybe there was something more recent she didn’t know about.”

Nan starts an angry response to Kevin, but I break in: “Okay, Kevin, why don’t you find everything you can about Curtis Sloan, this Curtis Sloan, and Nan and I will draft some possible language. Until we know differently, let’s work from the information Shameika gave.” Nan narrows her eyes and steams at Kevin, but it’s silent. The truth is, we can move a lot faster without him here hampering us.

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