Thursday, December 14, 2017

"You Didn't Do Anything Illegal"

That's what the cop led with when he pulled me over, "You didn't do anything illegal." That was probably in response to the look of bafflement on my face because I didn't know why I was being pulled over. What he said didn't clear that up because, then, my mind immediately went to, "Then why am I being pulled over?"

He answered my unspoken question, "You made someone else do something illegal."
What the fuck?
Someone else broke the law and I'm the one being pulled over?
Not that I said any of that.
He was already going on, anyway, about how when I pulled over at the curb to drop my son off someone else had, instead of waiting, gone around me. They went around me in a no-passing area so crossed the double lines to do it.

Here's what was happening:
It was raining, so I was taking my son to school. Normally, he rides the city bus, but it's a pretty long way to the bus stop, and I didn't want him to have to walk in the rain, especially since it had turned out that he had outgrown his jacket, something I didn't know about until the rain started. [Yes, he has a new one now.]

I drop him off on this side street down by the junior college because it's a relatively close point to the building he's going to. Just to be clear:
There is no red painting on the curb.
There are no signs prohibiting stopping or dropping off/picking up.
There might be a "no parking" sign somewhere along the street, but, obviously, I didn't park. I might have been pulled over to the curb for something like 10 seconds, long enough for my son to hop out and shut the door.

So I pulled over and he got out, and some car went around me while I was doing it. However, that was the only other car on the road. It was a pretty light traffic morning. After my son got out and I began to pull away, the cop turned on his lights and bwooped his siren at me. I actually looked around for other cars that he could be flagging down, because what had I done?

Nothing illegal.

But, seeing as I was the only car, I pulled around the corner on the next side street and pulled over. the cop came up to my window and said, "Don't worry; you didn't do anything illegal." Then he went on at great length about how I had caused the other driver to make an illegal action, then went on to say how I should be grateful that he was only giving me a warning because he could give me a several hundred dollar ticket...
What the fuck?
He was saving me from a ticket from a non-illegal action I took?
What could he have even given me a ticket for?
But I didn't say any of that.
I learned the hard way a long time ago about what it gets you to argue with a cop, especially when the cop is in the wrong. It doesn't matter if what a cop is doing is wrong or illegal: The cop has all the power. Kind of like when your dad punishes you for something your brother did because your dad likes your brother more (true story).

Here's the thing:
What the cop did was illegal. Pulling me over and taking my license and registration without just cause was an illegal act. You can't just stop someone for driving. Or for walking down the street. Or for whatever thing a cop may decide to do to you for whatever spurious reason he has. Unfortunately, I didn't have the presence of mind to get his badge number or anything. At that moment, I was just being glad he wasn't making up a false ticket and wanted to go.

This is the kind of thing that cops count on, though, and it's why they feel empowered to do... well, whatever they want to do. Look, I'm a white dude, and that cop felt completely within his rights to pull me over. Illegally. But, you know, maybe he thought I was going to be some mom dropping off her kid, which is probably much more frequent, and he thought he could get a little bit of intimidation going on. [I have heard -- literally listened to -- cops bragging about how they will pull women over for no reason just to see what will happen. And, yes, sometimes "things" happen, and they always happen because the woman feels intimidated.] And it's because cops feel empowered to do this kind of thing that black men wind up shot.

And Trump (#fakepresident), especially, has made cops feel emboldened to do as they please. [Yes, I listened to a cop talk about that, too, about how now that Trump was #fakepresident cops wouldn't have to worry so much about following the rules.

People who work for the public, whether they be cops or politicians, should not feel like they are the ones running the show. The GOP, especially, feels like they get to make the rules no matter how the public feels about what they're doing. They're playing "daddy" with the whole country, and it's time to put an end to it. This whole patriarchy thing really has to go.

Cops should be held accountable when they do illegal things.
Here's an idea, cops who shoot people should automatically lose their jobs. Maybe that would make some of them stop and think about whether there's a better solution than a gun.
Pedophiles shouldn't get to hold office. Or even run for election.


  1. You're right that it was illegal, and you have a remedy if you choose to pursue it: "Section 1983" actions (so called because of the portion of the US Code where they are enacted: 42 USC sec. 1983) allows a person to sue for damages where an official acting under color of law has violated their civil rights. In this case your 4th Amendment rights were violated when the policeman stopped and detained you; a cop needs reasonable suspicion to do a "Terry" stop ("Terry v. Ohio", ) which is a brief investigative stop; an officer needs probable cause to suspect that a crime was committed in order to place you under the longer seizure of arrest.

    So whatever the level of stop this was, it seems likely the officer violated your civil rights and I would contact a local civil rights lawyer to address it. Section 1983 is 'fee shifting' so a lawyer can take it on a contingent fee basis and if the suit is successful the government pays the lawyer for suing it.

    I have one of these cases pending now: two Madison police officers stopped and detained my client on "suspicion" of a theft when she didn't match the description of the suspect in any way... other than they were both African-American women.

    1. Briane: And that's why I wish I had thought to take note of whom he was. It's not the first time this has happened to me, actually, but I didn't know it was an illegal thing for them to do until after the time prior to this one, in which I was basically pulled over for being in a car with an out of state license plate at night.

  2. Eeek. Scary what people try and get away with. Sorry this happened to you.

  3. There's this weird mentality out there where people refuse to call out cops for anything because doing so would be "not supporting" them. Stuff like this is not okay and it's time to stop giving cops a pass for it.

    1. Jeanne: It's a loyalty thing is the only way I know how to describe it. It's a messed up mentality some people have; unfortunately, it's a lot of people who have it.

  4. Yikes. I've been there. Once got pulled over for pulling out of my parking lot. As in (back when I was living in an apartment), backing out of my parking spot, rounding the corner, and getting pulled over after having driven maybe 50 feet.

    His reason? Because it looked "suspicious" that I sat in my car for a full minute before I drove away. Note that it was -5 degrees at the time.

    Him: "So what were you doing?"
    Me: "I was warming up my car."
    Him: "Why?"
    Me: "...Because it's -5 degrees."
    Him: "Still, though, it looked suspicious that you were just sitting there."
    Me: "Why? Because I was staking out my own apartment?"
    Him: "You live here?"
    Me: "Yes."
    Him: "Can you prove that?"
    Me: "...Just look at my license. You're holding it."

    Possibly the dumbest human being I've ever encountered. After that I asked him if I could go. He gave me a snide "have a nice night" and I went on my way. I never saw him around my apartment complex again.

    The police: protecting us from ourselves.

    1. ABftS: Is that what they call that? Because I thought it was just bullying for bullying.

      I'll just note that that was not the first time I've been pulled over without cause. I mean, cause other than that I was driving at night and, evidently, driving at night is also suspicious. I guess what we can learn from that is NEVER sit in your car at night, especially in your own driveway.