Abusing a badge for the purposes of badgering

First, read this.  Then I’ll weigh in.

At the outset, let me offer my apologies to the police officers who follow their conscience and the law in performing their duties.  I am told by reliable sources that the vast majority of police officers are not just conscientious and dutiful, but also brave to the point of putting their own safety in jeopardy in the interest of keeping the rest of the law-abiding public out of harm’s way.  I have met some officers that I know to be like that.  I can only hope that these reliable sources are true.

Yet, from my experience, I have met too many police officers who abuse their authority in pursuit of unworthy agendas.  How many?  Okay, now, one is too many, but I have had more unhappy encounters with police officers than that.  For now, I will share just two such experiences.

One of them lived across a street from my house on the west side of Columbus.  I called the police a couple of times due to this neighbor’s deliberate hostile provocations, but of course, after the responding officers paid a visit to the neighbor to find that this neighbor was one of their own, they returned to my door to give the neighbor’s “side of the story” (a story so lame that the responding officers delivered the message sheepishly, looking down at the floor or to the side because it was so awkward to be put in the position of repeating bald-faced lies) along with an anemic apology that in no way offered reassurance that my trouble with this neighbor would go away any time soon.

Another couple of police officers accosted me as I walked down the street on the Near East side of Columbus.  Supposedly, the police were keeping an eye on traffic–meaning motorists–but I was a pedestrian and I had not jaywalked.  At that time, I lived in the area and my car was in the shop for repairs (under warranty), so instead of driving to the grocery store, I walked.  It was my intention to purchase a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread and then return home.  They asked for my ID.  I gave it to them.  While one was questioning my integrity and suggesting I was up to something sinister, the other was on the radio asking if there were any outstanding warrants against me.  When the word over the radio was that I had no criminal record, the imperious police officer who had been antagonizing me with his farfetched ruminations on what I was really up to then changed his tune (as he handed back my ID and half-apologized) and urged me to be cautious while walking along the sidewalk because someone had been murdered the previous week at an intersection just five blocks away.  No such murder happened the prior week at that location, but I decided not to quibble with the policeman any further.  It was getting late and I just wanted to be on my way, which meant letting them go their way without argument.

Now, about that first story, let’s set aside, for a moment, that my next-door neighbor on the west side of Columbus was also routinely antagonized by the police officer who lived across the street.  Let’s set that aside because the next-door neighbor was a college professor from Nigeria who had just bought his first new house in the USA for himself, his wife, and two children–all formerly from Nigeria.  Now, I’ve been married and divorced twice, but let’s also set aside, for the moment, that I was married to my first wife at the time.  My wife and I had just bought our first new house together.  Let’s set that aside because my wife was from Japan.  Let’s also set aside that the rest of the residents of the subdivision were white and that it seemed that the police officer across the street never bothered them.  Let’s just assume that he might have peeved his other (white) neighbors, but that I just didn’t know about it.  Let’s just assume that this police officer across the street was just a pain in the butt to everybody indiscriminately, and that his poor behavior toward us had nothing to do with race.  Still, there should have been some way for the residents of the neighborhood to check the bad behavior of the police officer who lived among us.

Now about that second story, it is too hard to set aside that race was a factor.  Yes, most of the residents of the Near East were black.  I am white.  Besides living in the area, I had also worked in the area as a teller at a bank (a bank branch located even closer to the site of the previous week’s “murder”).  The police officer who was so suspiciously questioning me came right out and stated “White guys only come here for two reasons:  drugs or prostitutes.”  Yeah, he actually said that to my face.  I only had six bucks with me.  How many drugs or prostitutes can I buy with six dollars?  That money was for a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread at the grocery store.  Really.  That previous week’s murder just a few blocks away?  That was a white man murdered by black suspects, so be careful!  Still, I was really doing nothing that would have reasonably led to suspicion, let alone probable cause to investigate me.  Though nothing came of it, the officers’ suspicions were unreasonable.  What mechanism is in place to discourage the unreasonable actions of police officers?

Oh, yeah, did I forget to mention that all of these police officers were white?

But, turning back to this week’s police story out of Lorain:  A Lorain police officer accosted a man and directed the man to take a seat in the back of the patrol car.  The man wants to know the police officer’s reason for this.  The police officer says the man is going to jail and that the officer will think of crimes to charge him with on the way to the jail.  The man happens to be the boyfriend of the police officer’s daughter.  Allegedly, the man had been found in possession of marijuana at least once before in his life.  If you and your daughter are both totally against marijuana, why, the man’s marijuana possession might be a good cause for concern.  But, hey, the daughter’s eighteen, not a child.  She can make decisions independently from her police officer father.  I think it’s a lot more perplexing and disturbing for a convicted murderer on death row to receive marriage proposals from women who only know of him due to news coverage of the crimes he’s committed, but, hey, adults make their own decisions about love.  The police officer’s daughter could certainly have picked someone much worse.  On the flip side, the police officer’s daughter could not pick a perfect man to fall in love with because perfect men do not exist. (Did I mention that I’ve been divorced twice?)

It just so happened that the police daughter’s officer was a passenger in the man’s car along with two other people who lived in that neighborhood.  The mom of those two other passengers was at home. For now, let’s just call her Ms.  You can read all their names in this Chronicle-Telegram article that I prompted you to read at the start.  When Ms. came out of her house to see what the ruckus was, the police officer told Ms. that he wanted to retrieve his daughter’s computer from inside her house.  Ms. was going to allow him to do that, except the police officer was getting mouthy.  He said that he was going to write a $300 ticket to one of Ms.’s kids for not wearing a seat belt.  Ms. changed her mind. On second thought, the police officer would have to get a warrant to retrieve his daughter’s laptop from Ms.’s house.  The confrontation escalated.  Then Ms. told the police officer that she would call 911 to report the officer’s actions.  The police officer countered by saying he would arrest Ms. for calling 911 when there was no emergency to respond to.  He ordered Ms.’s two kids out of the man’s car and into the house.  Lo and behold, the officer finally sized up the fact that his daughter was still in the man’s car.  He decided he would rather have his daughter in the back seat of his patrol car than his daughter’s boyfriend, so the boyfriend was permitted to get back out while the daughter was stuffed back there.  The police officer left, daughter in tow.  The police officer received a dispatch to a road rage incident.  He did not respond to it.  After the fact, he said that he contacted another officer to handle the road rage incident, and that the other officer said he’d handle the incident on his own.

So, a guy is upset with who is adult daughter is dating.  Hey, it happens.  The rest of the fathers do not pull out a police badge and stuff their daughter in the back seat of a patrol car.  The police officer harassed Ms. and two of her family while carrying out this personal agenda and threatens them with criminal charges because they became upset with him.  He was the one who caused them to be upset in the first place.  If he wasn’t there, nothing criminal would have happened.  He was the instigator.

But the one thing that sends shivers down my spine is that a person who is charged with upholding the law and enforcing the law flat out told someone that the officer was going to send that someone to jail for charges that he intended to trump up.  There is no way whatsoever that a person like that should be on the police force.  To allow such an officer to remain on duty would totally undermine law and order.  It would undermine the public trust.  Never mind all the rest, if courtroom testimony were to bear out the fact that this police officer had any intent of trumping up charges, he, himself, ought to be criminally charged on top of being fired.

But the union is obligated to defend him from being fired if he filed a grievance contesting his dismissal.  We’ll find out more about that after arbitration this September.

By the way, the police officer and his daughter are white.  The daughter’s boyfriend is black.  Let’s set that aside for a moment to say that, no matter the identities of the people involved, the trumping up of charges by a police officer and badgering people from behind an officer’s badge just for the pursuit of the officer’s personal agenda that happens to be at odds with carrying out the officer’s lawful duties is more than enough reason to terminate his employment.  Okay, the moment for setting that aside is over.  Make of it what you will.

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