Saturday, July 25, 2009

"We Can Tell You're On Something!"

In 2000 worked night shifts.
I was driving home around four am and accidentally turned right on a red light (the sign was placed between two corners just meters apart. I thought it referred to the second corner, not the first) Red and blue lights cop lights flashed in my rear view mirror. I pulled over.
Officer Jerk asked for my license and registration, and turned his flashlight on my face. "She's blown," he observed, as partner Officer Jerkette looked on.
I wasn't sure what this meant, but they cleared up. My pupils were huge. Surely I'd been partying all night and was as coked out as a 1977s dance club.
I wasn't alarmed. For one thing, I'd never done coke (or meth, or crack) in my life. Secondly, my pupils are unusually large. ( I'd seen an eye doctor about it a few years earlier. He confirmed they were big but otherwise healthy). Surely the cops would realize this was a mistake.
Not so. They didn't buy my explanation, patted me down, and searched the car for my "stash".
They were convinced I was a drug fiend. Every thing I said was interpreted that way.

Me: I was coming from work! It's just up the street. Ask them yourself.

Officer Jerk: We don't need to get your work involved in this.

Me: Yes, ask them where I was and what I was doing. They're my alibi.

Officer Jerk: You came from the Alibi Room?*

The Advil and other over-the-counter items in my purse? Obviously these were to quell the side effects of my evil habit.

All they found in my car was a blister pack of some sort of herbal vitamin suppliant. It was obviously a legal, commercial product. Officer Jerk just knew it was something worse.
"What's this?" he demanded.
"It's yours if you want it," I said, knowing this "evidence" wouldn't get me in trouble.
"That's okay," he said. "I don't like to put things in my body." Jackass.
He thought he found the jackpot in the trunk. I kept a sketchpad with me, plus pencils, and a sharpener which I kept in a baggie to catch the shavings. Officer Jerk raised the shaving-filled baggie in triumph.
"And what might this be?" he asked, like he'd caught the naughty kid at the cookie jar.
When he put the flashlight on them he agreed that they were, in fact, pencil shavings.
They also found a true crime book. They thought that was funny. Har de har.
I thought them finding nothing would be the end of it. It wasn't.
"We can tell you're on something," Officer Jerkette kept saying. "Admit it! We can tell by the way you're acting**!"
"I'm not on anything!" I said. "Can't you just run a test or something?"
"We can arrest you and do a blood test," she said, gravely. "And when it comes out positive that's six months in jail. Is that what you want?"
By now I upset. Getting blamed for something I didn't do. Something I never did. Having everything I said twisted to support their stupid theory. The fact that I might be arrested for something I didn't do. Tears rolled down my cheeks.
"If you didn't do anything, why are you upset?" Officer Jerkette demanded. "This doesn't add up."
Next came roadside tests. Close your eyes, spread your arms, touch your nose etc.. By now the sun was rising and commuters could slow down and watch the show.
"Admit what you did," they said, at least five times, "And we'll let you go.***"
Then they stepped away to discuss whether or not to arrest me. I suspect at least one of them had reluctantly figured out that maybe, just maybe, I wasn't a coke-blowing, meth-smoking, crack fiend after all. After five or ten minutes of chatting, they said that they'd "give me a break" and "only" give me a ticket. That was nice of them.

*A nearby bar.

**Earlier that night I had worried that there was something "wrong" with me that made people think I was weird. (I was something of a black sheep at that job- not shunned, but defiantly not one of the gang.) And now professionals in uniform were telling me how odd I was acting...

***Have innocent people ever fallen for that line and confessed to something they didn't do? I'll bet it's happened.


Linda said...

This made me mad.

On another note, I always feel guilty. (For absolutely no reason, OF COURSE!)

Namowal said...

It made me mad too- still does.
That being said, the irony is that Officer Jerk and Jerkette probably aren't jerks in other situations. People see what they expect to see. They've probably dealt with many a legitimate tweaker (late at night, big pupils etc..) and of course the suspect claims they're innocent! Then they (the cops) run into me and misinterpret my behavior the same way.

I'm not saying that this makes it okay to harras the innocent... ...just explaining how it might happen.

STAG said...

Don't know what else you might have done. Demanded to get arrested I suppose. Then you would have an arrest on your record. But you would have been in the right.

Namowal said...

Too bad they didn't think I was drunk, since I could have done the breathalyzer on the spot. I guess the drug test is more complex.

GhostBuild said...

Wow, stories like this bring my blood to an instant boil. So terrible you had to experience that.

I was in a similar situation. I was playing with the lights of a rental car while driving because one of them would not turn on. I got pulled over, the policeman was instantly in my face about whether or not I had any drugs or weapons in the car. My disorganized school backpack was spilled out all of the floor of the backseats when they looked inside... .surely a bald-faced indicator of smuggled Ak-47s, suitcase nukes, metric tons of ecstasy pills and heroin, and smuggled illegal aliens in the trunk, right?


What would cause a policeman to assume such things at the drop of a hat? Was it because I wasn't caucasian?

Horrible experience.

Yes, I suppose they deal with the dregs of society on a daily basis. A job at an insurance company alone can leave a bad taste in someone's mouth about humanity as a whole, and I bet a policeperson's exxperience would not paint the picture any rosier. Still, they should know better than to assume guilt until innocence is proven. No excuse to be that way; it's completely backwards to the point of living in this country.

Namowal said...

Hi Ghostbuild,
Sorry to hear you met some police jerks too! It's too bad they can't assume the people they pull over may, in fact, be innocent. Maybe, as you suggested, the fact that they do deal with a lot of troublemakers makes them cynical and primes them to see guilt that's not there.

They may not even be conscious of the bias.

Or maybe they are real life jerks.

If a young man is a control freak and a bully, being a cop has more appeal than, say, being a doctor or a forest ranger.

Your comment about all the contraband you were allegedly smuggling was pretty funny.