Wednesday, September 03, 2014

How To Deal With The Police -- A Cheat Sheet

“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time. ” -- James Baldwin

I have been stopped by the police on numerous occasions for absolutely no reason whatsoever.  Usually they back off when they realize I'm not the black woman they were looking for. Or expecting. Or something. Jedi mind tricks don't always work, though. The last time this happened to me was in the subway at Times Square awhile ago. I had walked through an open exit door with a herd of midwestern tourists at rush hour because the turnstiles were faulty.  I was repeatedly told that the condition of the turnstiles didn't matter. What I did was wrong. None of those tourists were detained, of course.  When I pointed this out, they ignored me. 

The first thing they did was put my name in the system.  The disappointment they felt when nothing came up was nearly tangible.  They gave me a summons, anyway -- with the hope that I'd pay the fine and be done with it. Problem is, I refused to pay the fine and I wanted the whole thing expunged. I contested it and spent the next 6 months unraveling gobs of red tape in one Waiting for Godot take-a-number-and-wait situation after another until finally a random person behind a desk turns off the tape recorder in the middle of The Interview That Settled This Whole Thing and tells me off the record that I was right, the cops were wrong and they were probably hoping I wouldn't follow through so I'd be in the system. That's the kicker: if my name came up at all in the system, that would have meant that the cops could cuff me and take me downtown immediately -- no questions asked.

Apparently, once you're in the system, you're screwed.

Any cop that stops me had better have a bloody fantastic reason for doing so because if he doesn't, I will roast him whole. Here's my super-short list of what you should know if they stop you:
  1. If the police stop you in New York, you don't have to show them your ID -- unless you're driving.
  2. If you're being detained by a cop, he can't hold you for more than 20 minutes and he can't search through your stuff.
  3. You can film the police as long as you don't interfere with what they're doing. And yes, EVERYONE should film the police. 

I'm fairly certain that Marlene Pinnock is grateful to David Diaz for shooting the video of that California Highway Patrol officer straddling her MMA style and pounding her in the face with his fists. Even Fox News couldn't justify this one -- and you know they tried. I hope they sue that cop into oblivion. Or at least an early retirement.

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