I am an American. A White American. I obey the law, I spend a lot of time doing normal things. I used to have a bad drinking problem but I wasn’t someone who became violent when I drank. I have been terrorized, taunted, disrespected, and otherwise treated like trash by the police. Quite frankly, I can’t stand law enforcement and I am very numb to their tragedies.
People might think this is an insensitive time to write this, but people die every day and we are in the middle of a national tragedy and a national discussion.
Let me elaborate on some of my experiences. Once I was stumbling home drunk from a club across the street. A deputy stopped me and forced me to get medical attention even though I refused it repeatedly, which a person is allowed to do. While in the hospital bed, two deputies went through my purse and laughing said, “At least she has condoms!” The derogatory inference glaring. I felt ashamed, though they were the ones acting shameful. It was the hospital that let me sign out against medical advice because they wanted my BAC to see if I was okay. They also knew they weren’t entitled to it without my consent. I was left to find my own ride back. This was in my early 20’s.
Another experience at that juncture in my life was doing a workout video with a friend as we did every morning at 6:00 AM. It was hard-core cross-training. Her house was a 3 minute walk from a convenience store and in those 3 minutes I had a cop car pull up on me. I was wearing my work out clothes which were tight but not skimpy at all and clearly work out clothes with Nike symbols on them and everything.
Them: We’re from VICE. Do you know what VICE is?
Me [confused] : Like Miami Vice?
Them: We’ve gotten reports there’s a prostitute in the area and we want you to shut it down now. We know what you’re doing out here.
Me [indignant] : I was just doing a work out video and now I’m walking to the store.
Them: Dressed like that?
Me [sarcastic]: That’s what I work out in, not a dress and heels.
Them: What’s in the coffee mug?
Them: What’s in the cigarette pack?
Me: Cigarettes. Do the questions get harder?
The conversation deteriorated. They claimed some kids identified me as the person walking up and down a nearby street (and this was not in a “bad” area), yelling out to cars. I stood there rolling my eyes at them getting angrier by the second. Then they started asking if I had ever done drugs or was currently on drugs and did I have previous prostitution charges. (For the record, that would be NO!!). I said I was calling my attorney. They said they could haul me down to the station and question me there. I called their bluff and calmly said I’d have my attorney meet us there. They told me again they “knew” what I was doing out there and to go home and left. Incensed I called their superior and for 30 full minutes went off on him, them and the entire department. To be fair he was very apologetic and promised action would be taken.
I won’t tell any stories but as a young person I was also ask several times if my car could be searched. I would always say “no.” Not because there was anything in the car but because I had a right to say no. Then I would be harassed for standing on my Constitutional rights. They would keep me there for hours. Try to question me. Harass my passengers. Bring out drug dogs. But I stand by the belief that our Constitutional rights are worth no more than the paper they are written on if they are not exercised.
Then there was the worst of all offenses–to me anyway–until I’ve seen the recent events of Black men killed at traffic stops for the terrible crime of pulling out identification.
As I said, I used to have a bad drinking problem. It’s a dirty secret that many who practice law do. I guess I was passed out in the bushes outside my condo one night (classy, huh?) and someone called an ambulance. For some reason they strapped me into the gurney. I woke up out of a total black out in a state of massive fear and panic. Last I remember I had been drinking with friends and now someone was tying me up!!!
I guess they still didn’t have the right leg strapped in and I was kicking it in a desperate attempt to get free. To stop this, a Sheriff’s deputy punched me in the face. As I was on a flat board my face shattered and I endured multiple orbital fractures, the biggest was right along my optical nerve. My face was set but due to the precarious nature of the injury, it still healed with a tiny piece of fat trapped in the optical nerve bone. This causes massive and consistent migraines on the left side of my face to this day. Surgery is too risky as it could easily lead to double vision or blindness and would be very complicated.
The deputy was given two weeks of unpaid leave for excessive force. It wasn’t the first excessive force complaint in his jacket either. I chose not to sue. My own attorney advised against it. The maximum I could get would be 100K, which certainly doesn’t begin to make up for a permanent injury. Additionally, at the time, my job had me in the courthouse often and dealing with the Sheriff’s office often. Call it courtroom politics, but professionally, I would have been screwing myself to sue.
I asked repeatedly that the deputy be fired, though, and his supervisors refused. He eventually did lose his job after several other instances of excessive force…instances that could have been prevented.
There are a few other (even recent) bad experiences I won’t bother to write about. The point here is that I HAVE and DO feel terrorized by law enforcement. It is hard to feel empathy for them. I have a lot of ideas about how to improve who we give a badge and a gun to, but that’s for another post also.
I don’t want people shooting each other. I don’t want citizens terrorized either. I don’t want to be terrorized anymore.
**All pictures included are of real interactions between law enforcement and citizens