Quit Accusing Me of Threatening You
In April 2014 on a Friday night at around 11 pm, I was stopped just one block from my home in Houston. When I asked why the police officer said:
One of my lights was out. (Ok.)
My windows were too dark. (It was a basic 2007 Nissan Sentra…with no tint.)
My (original) vehicle license plate was inside of a dealer issued frame like millions of other cars. He said that it was illegal.
He said that my driver’s license, which was clearly due to expire that October — was not valid.
He spoke to me as if I were leaving a known drug house with powder on my nose.
“The only ticket that was valid was the one for the broken light,” I told him. “This is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.”
That, I admit, was not my best move.
He stiffened up like a porcupine does when it sees a predator. He went back to his vehicle and quickly pulled out a pad. Did you know that porcupines don’t actually shoot quills at you? The quills come out of their behind, and then they slap you with their ass.
I was going to get slapped.
I called D.L. He wanted to come over, but I told him to just wait for me. This cop was too prickly. I sensed that it was too dangerous.
That officer wrote me up for four tickets and called in my license. I was inwardly elated when I heard the operator say, “License clear!” I mean, I try to keep up with anything and everything, but you never know. He gave my license back to me.
“Please exit the vehicle.”
I was puzzled. The tickets were written and my copies were sitting on top of my purse. This was a stop that should have been over. This should have been a done deal.
I got out and stood up.
I knew what he was doing. It was the classic, old-fashioned, played set-up. I was furious. I shook my head because I was so disgusted. He was young enough to be my son and I wanted to pull a Zsa Zsa Gabor on him. That was in Beverly Hills in 1989, and she got arrested.
I wasn’t going down like that.
I know that you’ve seen those cheesy YouTube videos. The cop grabs some unarmed person, bends them in half and screams “Quit resisting!”
The other famous phase? “Quit reaching for my gun!!!”
Of course, if he’s bending you over, your head and/or your hands will be near his gun…because he put you there.
Some of these traffic stops look staged. This one wasn’t.
Did he have a quota? Was he behind in making arrests? A lawsuit in the New York City Police Department that year had a secret policy of twenty and one. That was twenty tickets and one arrest per month per officer. If this is true in Houston, this guy just got four tickets off of me alone.
I think he wanted an arrest.
Surprisingly, he moved towards me. It didn’t make sense.
“GET BACK, I SAID!”
Following his instructions carefully, I moved back, keeping my arms to my sides. When I was a girl scout we had wild animal training in preparation for our annual week of camping. If you run into a cougar or a bear stand still and don’t look them in the eye. I learned that over thirty years ago and this, this momentous meeting, was the first time I needed to put this training in action.
“Get that that damn license plate fixed.”
He pointed vehemently at the original license plate behind my poor little Sentra, then got in his vehicle and drove away. I was shaking when I collapsed into my car. Why had he been so ugly to me?
The next morning I sensed some movement in the street and I looked through the front door. We had that kind of old-fashioned decorative glass, but I could still make out that a police car with that distinctive gold lettering was coming down our cul-de-sac. My stomach shrunk into itself, and I experienced an unsettling fear. It was him, one block from where I was stopped!
We were leaving on a trip for a week and I was glad. I didn’t feel safe.
I’ve learned that even Black officers can be racist. They develop a type of racial amnesia and become more blue than black. When he stopped me at the entrance to my neighborhood, he didn’t hide his skepticism that I lived in that block. Was that part of his problem? It wasn’t fancy, but nice.
When I returned home from my trip I was determined. I called the DA’s office and told them about the experience that I had with that officer.
They didn’t seem to be surprised.
They asked me to come down. They dismissed all of the tickets and I paid $20 for the paperwork. This was a few months before the Sandra Bland incident in July. You know the one where she was stopped because she allegedly failed to use a turn signal? Watching her experience, I knew firsthand how easily this could happen. That could have been me.
I have police officers in my family and so I know that there are good ones out there. But I can tell you that it took me months to get over that incident.
I sense that potentially dangerous officers, the ones that are trigger happy, immature, and just plain unwise…are known throughout their departments. Others see that the officers are unnecessarily rough, that they pull out their guns way too fast, and in the worst cases? They shoot people in the back.
But nothing happens until it’s too late.
For example, in one recent video, I saw a police officer pull a gun on a young man who was sitting in the front passenger seat. The young man’s hands were outside of the car and he refused to open the door. Why? Because the officer was primed to shoot. So the young man kept his hands outside the window.
“I ain’t moving my hands, he trying to shoot me,” he said.
When Truitt tells the cop that he is afraid to turn the car off because “you gon’ shoot me,” the officer yells “he’s got a gun!” followed by: “Gun!”
“The policeman assures Truitt: “I’m not gon’ shoot you, but you ain’t gon’ move those hands,” still not explaining how Truitt could have turned the car off without moving his hands.”
Only problem? The registered gun was in the back seat. And when guns are legal in a state, they’re legal for, well, maybe not everyone.
Ironically, in Arkansas, guns don’t even have to be registered. They have open carry — without a permit…
Fortunately, the other officers did not automatically shoot up the vehicle on this officer’s word. You see, they knew him.
The problem with the bad ones?
They have a gun.