[March 6, 2019] Along with 23 fellow citizens from my country in Southern New Jersey, we just completed two months of Grand Jury duty. The most memorable anecdote to come out of it was the story of the red Mustang sports car. This was my first time on Grand Jury duty, and we learned about how appearances can make a big difference in how you are perceived by law enforcement officials.
We learned more about the interworkings of the judicial system, met many police officers, and generally had a good time. We could drink coffee and eat snacks while cases were presented to us. Why? A grand jury does not decide guilt or innocence but simply whether the case should proceed to court. We got to hear a lot about arrests for serious crimes, traffic stops, and even murder.
During one of our breaks, another juror (about 55 years old) and I were discussing older cars; a favorite topic of men. He described how often he got stopped by the police when driving this bright red, convertible Mustang. What brought this story up was the fact that on one trip, the juror was traveling north on the New Jersey Turnpike with his mother in the passenger seat. He was stopped four times by the State Police.
On the fourth stop, the juror’s mother (obviously upset as explained to me) loudly told the State Trooper that this was the fourth time her son had been pulled over in less than one hour. This often happened in the past. The trooper went back to his vehicle and returned with an apology. No explanation was given, but he assumed that an APB (all-points bulletin) had been put out on a similar car.
The next month, the juror had his Mustang repainted green. He also was not pulled over again by the State Police.
Our appearance matters. Some folks will tell you this should not be the case because we should all be judged on our abilities and track record of getting things accomplished. Well, that is a fine sentiment. The reality, however, tells us that we will be judged by how we look. It is up to us to what is possible to present our best appearance at all times.
For those involved in leadership, a distraction like this is unnecessary. That means to dress like success, act friendly and respectful to others, and don’t let your guard down. And if you drive a red Mustang sports car, it might be a good idea to limit your exposure to the local police.