When the Police Don’t Get It
I recently went over an old non-public blog of mine that I haven’t used since 2009. I found this entry from December 2008. I decided to rerun it on this blog. I was inspired to rerun the entry after reading this article: Police Brutality and Deaf People. Though my experience didn’t have a lot to do with the fact that I’m hard of hearing. It had more to do with the cerebral palsy I’ve dealt with since I came out of a comatose state when I was a toddler. My experience also wasn’t so bad, really, but I think it could have gotten worse. I think that if Bob hadn’t come out of the store when he did, the cop would have taken me downtown and put me in a holding cell for the night. I might be wrong, I’m not sure I heard him right, but I think the cop did say “I’m going to take you in” just before Bob came out.
Most of you know I can’t drive because of my eyes. I might have some of you under the impression that I drink all the time and I’m always drunk. I have a few friends who think I’m an alcoholic and have suggested I get help more than once. I often drink a lot when I drink, yeah. But it’s not all the time.
The cops have stopped me a few times, just for walking. I was not drunk, but my balance isn’t very good and I guess most people who meet me for the first time are going to assume I’m drunk whether I am or not. I sway a little when I stand and I often stumble and trip when I walk. If you want me to walk in a perfectly straight line, you can forget about it because it’s not going to happen.
I understand why the cops stop me. It is part of their job to keep the streets clear of drunks. If they see a questionable character, it’s part of their job to check it out. I don’t object to their stopping me, but it’s a little scary when a cop rolls up behind you and flips on the flashers. I’ve even been barked at through the loudspeaker. To me it sounds like “Buhluh! Buhluh!”
I ought to give myself a pat on the back, though. I’m often a nervous wreck when communicating with most people, but all the times that I’ve had to talk to the cops I was strangely calm and level headed. This does not erase the fact that I half expect to be hauled downtown and locked up until someone can pick me up.
Last time this happened was back in September. I was walking to the store for a pack of cigarettes. The store is about a ten-minute walk from my house and I’ve considered it a blessing to have a store within walking distance. It meant I could get what I needed without asking for a ride.
That kind of changed in September. I was about to walk into the store’s parking lot when I looked over my shoulder into a pair of headlights. I thought the driver of the car was on his way to the store, too. I didn’t wonder why he was going the wrong way on the road, nor did I wonder why he was half on the shoulder, half on the road and aimed straight at me. I just thought I was in his way, so I started walking to the left across the parking lot to give him more than enough room to get by me. Then I heard two amplified and highly distorted words blast from a speaker. When I looked over my shoulder again, it was no longer just two headlights. Now a set of red and blues danced on the roof of the car.
I knew right away what it was about. I was prepared to go through the usual rundown of questions and then be on my way. The cop climbed out of his car, looked at me and said something. I’m pretty sure of what he said, but because I didn’t quite hear him right, I explained that I don’t hear very well and asked him to repeat.
“Have you been drinking?”
That’s what I thought he said. My answer was no.
He spread his arms. “Then how come you can’t walk straight?”
“Have you been using drugs?”
Again my answer was no.
“Are you carrying any weapons or drugs on you?”
He asked me for ID, I gave him my state ID card. He looked at it and again asked me if I had any weapons or drugs on me. I said no.
“I’m going to pat you down.”
All right, now I’m feeling humiliated. People are driving by on the road and some of them are probably my neighbors. I was just going to the store for a pack of cigarettes, for God’s sake. That’s what was on my mind, but all I said was “Okay.”
He did the pat down, but all he found were my keys and my wallet. No weapons or drugs on me, except for what I might have stuffed up my ass, maybe?
So comes another set of questions. “Where are you going? What are you doing? Is that your shirt? What’s that on your shirt? You walk to the store every day? How come you don’t drive? You can’t drive at all? You walk to the store every day? Is that your shirt? Where do you live? Just down the road? You walk to the store every day…?” Pretty much the same questions over again.
I answered each question as honestly as I could. I was starting to get the impression that he was looking for a reason to take me in, but then one of the employees came out of the store to drop some trash in the bin. The employee just happened to be Bob, who is often at the register when I go in the store. Though we never talked much, we’ve done business for five years and we know each other well enough.
So, the cop goes to Bob and asks him if I really do stop in the store just about every day. Bob convinced him that I do and even tells the cop that I really do live just down the road. Finally, finally the cop is convinced that I’m not a drug dealer, a vandal or a burglar, or whatever the hell he thought I was. Finally he gave me back my ID card and let me go into the store and get my cigarettes. This whole detainment lasted about twenty minutes.
I was very thankful that he was not waiting for me when I came out of the store.