I worked for the police department for two years in police records. My favorite show when I was a teenager was Homicide: Life on the Street. The best show ever on television in my opinion was The Wire. I’ve gone on ride-alongs with cops. I’ve read books about and by cops. There was a time when I wanted to be a cop.
So it’s safe to say that when it comes to any situation that involves cops, I’m probably going to be on the side of the cops. And for most of my adult life I didn’t understand how anyone who wasn’t a career criminal could hate cops.
It wasn’t until the first and only time that I got arrested that I really understood the hatred. In order to explain, I have to get into the specifics of what happened. Since it’s been many years since it happened, I don’t feel too bad about that.
My ex-girlfriend had come over and started an argument with me. She got loud. And as anyone who knows me can attest, if someone yells at me, I’ll yell back. Not mature, I know, but that’s how I am. And it’s not like I have a quiet voice anyway. Eventually she left my apartment and when she did, I called my friend and told said, “Hey, whatshername just came over and freaked the hell out on me for no reason at all. So glad I’m not with her anymore. I’m ready for a beer. Come pick me up.”
Ten minutes later, my friend pulled up in his 1966 Sparkle Blue Impala. As I got into his car, I saw a patrol car pull up in front of my apartment. I figured someone must have called the police. At the time I had just recently stopped working for the police department and my opinion of cops in general and Tacoma Cops in particular could not have been higher. This is why I chose to get out my friend’s running car and explain to the officers what happened.
I walked up and introduced myself and told them I lived at the apartment they were going to. As soon as I did this, one of the cops told me to put my hands behind my back. ‘For protection’ they said. One of them then put the handcuffs on me. I nodded to my friend and he drove off since it was clear that I wasn’t getting a beer any time soon.
I gave them my version of events and was told to get into the police car. I asked why they were taking me in and they said, that Washington State law says that they have to arrest someone if they’re responding to a domestic. Technically this is true, but in practice I know that it’s not. I know this both from being on ride-alongs where we responded to a domestic and from two years of writing up police reports.
Once they shut me in the patrol car and put it into gear, it was pretty clear I was going to jail. I’d been in the back of a police car once before, but it was a different situation and I talked my way out of it. These guys, it was fairly clear, wanted to arrest me and so they did. And it was at that moment that I totally understood that whole, “Fuck the police.” thing. I got it. I was angry because they were arresting me just to arrest me. I knew at this point there was nothing I could say that would get me out of the situation. However, I also knew that there wasn’t a lot I could say that would get me into more trouble than I was already in.
So I asked one of them how long they’d been a cop. He said, “Fourteen years.”
I said, “Fourteen years and you’re still a beat patrolman. How big of a fuck up do you have to be for that to happen?”
The conversation did not go well from there, but I think by the time we got to the jail they were just as pissed at me as I was at them, which was essentially the point. At the jail I was treated very well, but that might have had something to do with knowing half the people that worked there from my recent employment in records.
Three days and a couple thousand dollars to a lawyer later and all the charges were dropped. The whole thing was taken off my record. And things had returned to how they were. Except for the fact that I was still angry. I found in the days following my arrest that I would instinctively flip off any cop I saw. I lost touch with the handful of cop friends I had. It wasn’t until weeks later that I realized what was happening. It wasn’t until I really looked at the situation that I realized I was blaming all cops for my one bad encounter with two cops. It was amazing to me given all of the positive police experiences I had, that this one event could color my viewpoint so completely.
It wasn’t an immediate thing, but I got over it. And it wasn’t until years later when I was talking with a coworker that I realized something else. He was going off at length about how the cops in his neighborhood when he was growing up would pick up a black teenager for simply walking down the street. And that it was because of that, that he hated cops.
I said, “So because of isolated incidents with a handful of individual cops, you’ve decided you hate all cops, correct?”
He said, “Yes.”
I said and I didn’t really realize it until I said it, “Aren’t you using the same basic logic that your average racist person uses; using a few events with individuals to justify your hatred for a whole group?”
The truth is that prejudice is the same regardless of who or what it’s against. It’s easier to get past once you really think about it. Just because some people are assholes doesn’t mean their people are assholes.
So I don’t flip off cops anymore. Of course if I see those two cops again, I’ve got a middle finger for both of them.