“Where did this cop–of all people–get the nerve to argue with anybody in terms of Right and Reason? I had been there with these fuzzy little shitheads–and so, I sensed, had the desk clerk. He had the air of a man who’d been fucked around, in his time, by a fairly good cross-section of mean-tempered rule-crazy cops….So now he was just giving their argument back to them: It doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong, man…or who’s paid his bill & who hasn’t…what matters right now is that for the first time in my life I can work out on a pig: ‘Fuck you, offcer, I’m in charge here, and I’m telling you we don’t have room for you.’ ” –Hunter S. Thompson
A while back, I had a positive encounter with an officer. (!) I was pulled over for speeding. Hewas the epitome of politeness. He introduced himself, ran my info, and let me go on my way with a verbal warning. He gave me a card with his name on it and said that if I had complaints or felt uncomfortable with the stop, the card gave me the information I needed to make a complaint against him. Since then, I have been watching my speed, and I think about that officer a lot. I like slowing down as a personal show of gratitude for his professionalism. When I received a speeding ticket several months prior to that, the officer was rude and inflammatory, and I cared little about indulging him.
Given that I engage in illegal activity daily, I don’t see police officers as allies. I have had positive encounters, but also a fair share of negative ones. My first two encounters were not so positive, and it poisoned me against law enforcement for a while. I had to become a little older and reflect on the whole concept of “law and order” to appreciate it. I share these experiences not to promote negativity toward law enforcement, but because I think a legal establishment’s abuse of power is the most odious display of authority in our society, and should not be concealed.
At 13, I snuck out with my friend (call her Lucy). We wanted to walk to the house of the boy she had a crush on, although we didn’t know the right direction, let alone where he lived. She began dating him a few weeks later, and as it turns out, it was a 17-mile trek one way on winding mountain roads. We brought backpacks with snacks to boost our energy. A deputy stopped us (I still vividly remember the name on his nametag). “What do you think you’re doing? What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” We were petrified and completely honest. We said what we were doing, gave him the name of the boy, and revealed every hidden facet of our plan. He asked us if we were running away; we said no. He told us to put our backpacks on the hood of his vehicle. Lucy bravely asked why, and he barked that we didn’t have a choice. Our packs went on the hood. Now I understand it was a consent to search, but I didn’t understand that at the time. He found 3 asthma inhalers belonging to Lucy, the only incriminating evidence against us. He asked if we were on drugs; we said no. She explained that she had severe asthma and was testing them under her doctor’s care. He told us to get in the SUV.
We started to get in the back. He told us to get in the front. We opened the passenger door to see him unstrapping the rifle that was lashed under the front seat. He examined it for a moment, the barrel pointing in our direction, put it back in its place, and let it sit on its carriage withoug restrapping it. He told us to be careful of it. We squashed in next to him. I sat in the middle. He said nothing. He was a smoker, and his windows were cracked. He roled them up completely, lit a cigarette, and smoked it without saying a word. Lucy coughed, and he audibly smirked. When he was finished, he took our names. He put the call in as “runaways.” I opened my mouth, and he put a finger up to silence me while he radioed it in. He drove to a gas station and called our parents. He told them he highly suspected that we were using drugs and had admitted to running away. He was going to let us off without a curfew ticket as long as they came to pick us up right away. Our parents thanked him profusely.
Six months later, I was on the opposite side of things. A friend’s mom overheard me saying I had been hurt by someone and called the police. They wanted to come by my house the next day. I called the deputy and left a pathetic message desperately pleading with him not to come, that it had just been a “misunderstanding.” The idea of my parents finding out was devastating. The police came, three males and one female officer. They appeared more concerned that the person in question had been on drugs than what happened, and asked lots of questions about his drug use. I wouldn’t tell them much, so they left me with the female in an attempt to get me to spill my guts. She was harsh, cold, and kept saying that I needed to tell her “everything.” The others came back and asked me for the hundreth time if I wanted to press charges. I again said no. One of them said, “You know we have the power to press charges, even if you don’t want to. We can take this all the way with or without you.” I understand now that certain crimes are crimes against the state and therefore the state has the power to press charges, but it was a huge violation of privacy. I was terrified and feeling completely out of control. They finally said that since two months had passed and I wasn’t cooperating, little would likely ever come of it, but they laid a first-rate guilt trip on me and cautioned that I should expect a hostile welcoming when I returned to school in the fall. I cried and cried, and they just said to be prepared because “gossip like this spreads like wildfire.” A year later, the lead deputy in that case came to our sex ed class to give a talk on legal stuff. He asked the teacher for a class list and read it, said something, and the teacher called me over. She whispered loudly that the lecture might be “upsetting,” and that I didn’t have to stay. I was stunned. She hadn’t even explained what they would be discussing, so I said I was fine and crept back to my seat, mortified. After class, I ditched for the rest of the day and got wonderfully high in defiance of what I considered two shitty institutions: law enforcement and high school.