A police car with siren blaring bears down on a Black man who wonders what he’s done wrong. Maybe he was speeding. He’s wearing blue jeans, a sweater and a baseball cap, and he stands silently as a hulking 6-foot-5-inch white cop confronts him, yelling and cursing and demanding to know why he’s there—a Black man who’s not in a suit and tie in a white neighborhood after dark.
The scene is all too commonplace, except this was Isaiah “Ike” Leggett, running for a third term as Montgomery County Executive in the wealthy suburb adjacent to Washington, D.C. “To him I was just another Black face,” Leggett says, recalling the 2014 incident. “It didn’t matter who I was, what I was doing, I was a Black face in front of him.”
The situation was defused when a white female officer emerged from the police car. Leggett said he could tell by the look on her face that she recognized him. Her partner was from neighboring Howard County, she explained, and didn’t recognize him. “Imagine if I were a teenager who panicked,” Leggett says. “That could have evolved into a very different situation.”