A recent story that’s received PLENTY of nationl attention already kind of hit home to me. I guess it’s being referred to now as Gates-gate since it’s the story of the arrest of Harvard Law professor Henry Louis Gates at his own home thanks to a series of unusual circumstances. I’ve read several accounts and when it gets to the part where Mr Gates shows Officer Crowley his identification proving he did indeed live at that house, I always think “Ok, and that’s where the officer says thank you and goodby, right?” Because in my mind the police are public servants in a position of great power and they shouldn’t abuse that. My friend Shayera provides a perfect example of the things public servants need to learn how to deal with while representing their city/county/state etc. Police in particular are dealing with people who are MOST LIKELY to be in a heightened state of anxiety. But rather than focus on what this officer did wrong (IMHO), it makes think back to the three police officers who did something right.
Back a couple of months ago when Music Man was doing his time in work furlough, there was a clerical mix up with his records that resulted in a warrant being issued for his arrest. Yes, while he was technically in custody! Anyhow, we were alerted to it on a Friday night when our neighbor told us that the police had come by looking for him. Of course it was a Firday night right? Anyway, I was able to contact MM and get him to call his attorney to check into things first thing the next week. Meawhile he checked with his probation officer at the furlough facility who assured him that the police would not pick him from there or from his job site. They were able to look it up from their system and see it was a charge against him for possesion of Adderall withou a prescription (one pill!) a charge which had been rolled into the time he was serving. Or so he thought. Again, clerical mishap. So on Saturday I drove home after leaving SportsBoy with my parents as he was in the middle of playing in a tournament and I had an event to attend at my high school that evening. I have about 45 minutes to shower and get dressed before my friend was meeting me here to head out. As I pull around the corner I see two police cars and three police officers milling about the corner. I was floored. Sure enough, as I pull into my garage they walk in behind my car. I remember thinking “Really?! You guys are doing this to me now? Isn’t this overkill?!” So yeah, I was agitated. As I get out of the car one officer is RIGHT there asking me where my son is. I tell him at work. He says “No ma’am, I don’t believe you, his car is in the driveway.” I know I raised my voice right away and said “Oh, really? HIS car? Did you run the plates? Did you feel the hood?” He just kept saying “I know he’s in there.” I said again “Oh REALLY?! Besides not running the plates on that car, I gather you also didn’t check to see if he was ALREADY IN CUSTODY?!” I also made what I fully admit to be a very smart ass comment about how it would make the neighborhood feel a whole lot better if they spent time looking for the guy who was sexually assaulting women and robbing them vs my son with his possesion of adderal charge. A little voice in my head was saying “shut up, YOU don’t want to get yourself arrested!” but this was my son who was being ridiculously wronged, I felt they were being lazy and I felt harassed. Which is what I stated when he condescnedingly asked me calm down. Now, the whole time it was just one of the three officers speaking to me. Another was standing next to him and the third was standing down in the driveway watching the whole scene like a bystander. Finally, because I knew they wouldn’t be satisfied and I had nothing to hide, I invtited them inside, told them to look wherever they wanted to look. So the first two spread out and go through the house while the third one finally comes in and listens to me vent some more, but wisely throws no fuel into my fire. Finally he asks if I have any paperwork in the house to prove MM is at furlough. I looked but there was nothing because MM had to keep all that with him. But I showed him that his cell phone was with me and off, (unusual for a 23 year odl right?), pointed out again that the car was in my name and had not been driven, pointed out how everything in his room was turned off – bed not slept in – and asked why they couldn’t have someone in their station check their records more closely? He claimed weekend issues with the system and not having access until Monday. Meanwhile cop #1 who had done the talking earlier comes downstairs and says “Well, he’s clearly not here, but then I didn’t open every cupboard.”
Can you imagine my reaction to THAT? Right turdblossom, my 6’1″ son is curled in a ball under the sink – go look! Ok, I didn’t call him turdblossom, but I did say the rest! That finally got cop #3 to say “OK you guys, you can go, I have it from here.” Smart move. I asked him why there were so many of them for this misdemeanor charge? He claimed Standard Opertaing Procedure. I was transitioning from pissed off to close to tears at this point and I told him calmly that was I was quite serious about feeling harassed, that I didn’t care if it was SOP, but I felt like they had done no homework on this warrant, but had just descended on our house twice now apparently to take away a guy who was doing all the right things and trying to turn things around and was no threat to another resident here. So he asked me if I had a way to get to MM and get a copy of the furlough paperwork. I did. He told me to do that ASAP and leave that out front so that the next time they came by he could just pick that up.
My point of that whole memory dump is to highlight a GOOD cop. Really, all three of them were even though the one was on a minor power trip. They knew when to stop challenging me and start helping. And they knew when to walk away instead of making the situation worse.
And reading up on the Gates situation makes even more thankful that they WERE very good cops. Because I gotta admit that I was right there with some disorderly conduct with my verbal assults! Maybe they should go out and give a little training to Officer Crowley 🙂
You did far better than I would in keeping calm. I’ve got a whole bunch of rants percolating about cops and their complete over reach of power.
I’m doing my best to remember that not all cops are horrible.
I used to work with a nurse who could spot any cop not in uniform. It was the funniest thing, she hated them, don’t know why, but when one would walk into the unit she’d growl, “That’s a cop.”
She was always right.
It was something about their walk and the way they held their head and looked around, she’d tell us.
Wow, and yes, I think you did better than I would have too. I would have been so irritated, and I’m not sure how that would have manifested in that situation.
You are correct in that people would most likely be anxious when approached by the police, as a given. I was stopped once in my car for a broken taillight (which I did not know about), and I was visibly shaking enough that the officer asked me about it. Granted, I was suffering from anxiety at that time, but my nerves were still a mess after just that!
I grew up thinking that the police were my friends and here to help me. Wrong. I found that out when I was a teenager and the cops followed me late one Saturday night…all the way from Long Beach to Huntington Beach. They finally pulled me over for no reason. They made my sisters and I get out of the car and they tore the car apart looking for illegal substances. In the end, they let us go because they found nothing and there was nothing to have pulled us over for even if they had found anything. There was no probably cause. They just saw three hispanic women in a car late at night (we were coming home from visiting our brother) and decided to pull us over.
Which brings up that other issue…they clearly told us in very plain English that they had pulled us over because we were hispanic and looked suspicious…yeah, me a Stanford student home for Christmas at the time. I looked suspicious. Right.
I also found this out with Long Beach police again when my father beat my mother and threatened to kill her, brandishing a gun at her. She called me and I rushed over and from outside of the house I called the LB police. The guy that responded was a real jerk. He told me he couldn’t do anything about it until I showed him a dead body! He didn’t care that my mother had been beaten and was willing to have him arrested and the fact that the house was in my mother’s name and my dad didn’t live there. The jerk told me to call the station when he shot her!
Those are only two incidents. I can go on and on. And although I never, ever pull this, I will mention that where cops are concerned, the color of a person’s skin definitely comes in to play.