My Experience With the PoliceSubmitted by LibertyHill945 on Mon, 03/18/2013 - 04:48
I came back home this weekend to visit family. Every time I'm in town, I have to meet up with my old friends. I still keep in touch with a lot of them back home which always makes the visit so much sweeterr.
Four of us decided to get together on Friday night and grab a drink at the bars. The first place we went was packed, over-crowded. Not only could we not get a drink, but we couldn't even move. So we left to find another place. The area we were in has a bunch of bars all on the same street. As we were on our way to the next place, we crossed the street.
All of a sudden, the red and blue flashed right in our face. Two police officers immediately approached us and it hit me that we were in trouble. But what for? All I could think to myself was, what did I do? But I couldn't think of anything. We were sober and crossing the street, no one was acting recklessly, and it wasn't like we were loud or disturbing the peace. What a sad reaction. That even when you haven't done anything, you're already in defense mode. But we got caught! For something!
The officers informed us that the law we broke was jaywalking! Yes, I said it, jaywalking!!!
And I know what you're thinking, we were next to a bunch of bars and the cops have to maintain the security of the area. But, this wasn't a major intersection by any means. It was a one-way street. It would take the average person 5 steps to cross. There were no cars around, NONE, absolutely none. And there weren't any later on either, it's not a high-traffic area. We jumped the light by 2 seconds. You know when you see the light at the other end turn yellow from the corner of your eye. You know you're just seconds away from the walking sign to pop up, and when the street is LITERALLY a hop, skip, and jump over and there are no cars in sight, you just go without even thinking about it.
So the cops told us we were jaywalking. There was a sigh of relief because it was only jaywalking, this has happened to me at least once before where the cop just gave me a warning, I figured the same would ensue. Two of my friends tried to explain to the cops how we just jumped the gun by a few seconds, how there weren't any cars around, and how the street was so narrow you wouldn't even think there would be a signal light there. Pretty much how we weren't trying to cause any trouble, we just didn't feel that it was that big of a deal to cross a few seconds early. We even knew the officers were there, that's how confident we were that it wasn't going to be a problem. But the cops weren't having it. One of them raised his voice at my friends in a very aggressive manner asking "YOU THINK YOU'RE ABOVE THE LAW?!"
WTF I'm thinking. This is jaywalking!!! I get riled up when I hear about non-violent drug offenders getting locked up in prison, and right now I'm being held for crossing the street?!?!? My friends tried to reason with them, I chimed in a bit, but soon realized these cops simply didn't want to hear it. In fact, it seemed like they were trying provoke us. They were loud, aggressive, and getting directly into our faces. It really seemed like they were hoping we were drunk, so that they could give us this ridiculous ticket, wait for us to argue back or something even worse, and then arrest us.
Understanding their aggressive nature, I told my friends to shut up, I was still holding out for a warning. The officers asked for all of our IDs and headed back into the car, I figured they were just checking if we had anything on our records and they would then let us go. I thought, luckily we were all clean so we should be fine. But the idea of them "looking us up" really irks me. Then they proceeded to pull out a pen and their book and write us a ticket. Wow!! We just stood there in front of their car as they held our IDs and wrote all 4 of us up for taking personal responsibility when crossing the street.
The officers came out of the cars to hand us back our IDs and a ticket. I was the first to get handed back my stuff, and being the Libertarian that I am, I was pissed and ready to take action. I pulled out my camera phone and took a picture of them and their license plate and started to record. The more aggressive officer saw that I was recording and flashed a white light, which was attached near his side mirror, right at me, killing my camera shot. He then came out returning a ticket to my other friend and told me to put my camera away. I told him this is my right. He followed with, "I'm going to ask you once again, put your camera away," in a very I'm-the-boss-of-you type of way. The other officer jumped in to say "He can do that at a safe distance." So I took a step back and kept recording. My friends were saying the minute I took the camera out the officers were acting much more politely.
I didn't that great of a video, in fact there were times when I just had it up and it wasn't even recording, otherwise I would've posted it. I felt so helpless during this situation, and a part of me got very nervous and scared when I really shouldn't have been. The whole ordeal took 45 minutes long and they had their lights flashing as we stood there and a number of people walked by probably thinking we did something really bad. They treated my friends and I as if we were criminals. All we were doing was crossing the street. I was just in town to hang out with some friends that I haven't seen in a while, and for taking personal responsibility, I was fined.
There were an infinite number of things going through my head. I know our freedoms are deteriorating by the day, but when you're not able to cross the street at your own risk, what freedom is really left? Fortunately, my friends and I can pay this off, still don't know how much it is, but I read on some forums that it can be up to $190. But what if you're a student, deep in debt, you get 1 night to take off from school or work to hang out with friends, and you get hit with this. That just sucks! It sucks right now for me, but for so many, this would be a major setback. How powerless are we? It's the cops word vs. ours. Why isn't the cop fighting real crime? Wait, we're paying them so they can do this to us?
Lesson: The camera phone is a very valuable and important weapon.
I urge everyone, film the police. Film everything. Film not only the bad cops, but also the good cops. Applaud cops in any way you can when they are actually doing their job -- protecting our rights. And when you see anything suspicious, it doesn't hurt to have it recorded. Even though I didn't get great footage, the symbolic gesture of me doing that, of me exercising my right to film them goes a long way. It gives the cops something to think about, and hopefully a bit of paranoia that they know we are watching them and recording what they do. And it gives confidence to those who see you filming that they can film too.