What has been
your worst experience
with the law?
I don’t like to work negative. I try my best to avoid “worst” posts. I’m all about the positives and maybe someday in the future I’ll do one about really positive experiences with law enforcement, but now isn’t the time for that. As you know, yesterday afternoon the second in a serious of shocking non-indictments occurred when it was announced that a grand jury had decided that Staten Island Officer Daniel Pantaleo would not go to trial for the death of Eric Garner, despite the fact that the father of six’s death had been ruled a homicide by the coroner and his murder had been captured on video, showing–without any doubt–that Mr. Garner pleaded for his life as Officer Pantaleo kept the asthmatic man in an illegal choke hold.
To any reasonable observer it’s as open and shut as a case gets and–as we learned last week when a distressing similar scenario played out in Ferguson, Missouri–the grand jury system is such that it’s pretty much impossible for a prosecutor to NOT get an indictment unless they make a very specific effort to do so. It would appear that in both these cases the prosecutors actually did the work of the defence and made every effort to exonerate the officers under scrutiny, even though that is the exact opposite of their job.
So, it’s pretty easy to understand why so many people are very, very, very upset right now. While the Mike Brown case was one with multiple narratives that contradicted each other, the Eric Garner is one that allows for no ambiguity. It’s there on video for all of us to see. The only way to misinterpret it and choose to see Officer Pantaleo as anything but a violent aggressor is if you are so twisted by your own fear (and bigotry) that you are incapable of accepting any act of violence perpetrated by a police officer as unjust.
But sadly there are many, many, many people like this out there. People who are celebrating the grand jury’s decision in this matter as a victory for a system they innately understand exists to prop up a status quo without which they would be lost. The truth is that these people cannot be convinced that they are on the wrong side of this issue. They are too invested in what is to ever seriously consider what should be. They don’t want a fair system, because the current one gives them the advantage.
Still, it helps to counteract their narrative with as many stories of injustice as we can dish out and that’s what this post is for. Tell us about your worst experiences with the law. Let’s make this personal.
Speaking personally, this is where my privilege strikes in. I’ve never been looked at twice by a police officer. I’ve never received a ticket. The only times I’ve ever even talked to a person in uniform was when I worked at a 24-hour cheque-cashing store and needed them to collect the drunk people who had passed out on our floor (which happened quite a lot).
Many of these incidents have blurred together in my memory, but I’ll never forget the one time two officers came in to pick up a man who was so drunk I was worried he might choke to death on his own vomit. What struck me about the encounter wasn’t that it was the only one that involved two female officers, but that they both approached the man like he was a threat–even though he literally couldn’t even stand up by himself.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with an officer being defensive to protect themselves from potential harm, but watching the one officer who was taking charge, I couldn’t help but notice a certain self-satisfaction in the way she yelled at the man who was far more likely to throw up on her than throw a fist. I had seen examples of other officers who treated these drunks with dignity and respect, so I could appreciate the unnecessary anger and disgust with which this officer approached this man.
And the truth is I don’t know her story. She could have just come from a similar encounter with a man who did attempt to assault her or maybe something like that happened a week earlier and she still felt the rage the incident had inspired. But the fact is that this doesn’t excuse her behaviour. If we gave everyone a pass to be unnecessarily hostile and violent because of past incidents, there would be almost no one in prison right now.
The second worst incident was when a police dispatcher literally said, “What do you want us to do about it?” to me when I called after a man demolished our lobby, because I refused to cash his cheque after he ignored my request to stop harassing a woman who clearly did not want to talk to him. It sucked and made me feel helpless, but I could see his point. since I didn’t have the man’s name or any way for them to locate him. Even so, when the people who we want to turn to in these situations admit there’s nothing they can do, it’s the total opposite of comforting.
So that’s me. I’ve been incredibly lucky in this regard. And I know why. I’ve never been stopped for walking with my hands in my pockets. I’ve never been stopped period. I probably never will. Doesn’t quite seem fair to me.
Let’s talk about it.