09 March 2011

The Thick Blue Head

"You were put here to protect us, but who protects us from you? Every time you say 'That's illegal' doesn't mean that that's true." - KRS-One, 1989
I guess I've always had a mistrust of authority figures. My attitudes toward the police were formed by a misspent suburban youth listening to hip-hop and punk rock, and I came to see them as a reactionary force meant to enforce the status quo. But I'm no wild-eyed, bomb-throwing anarchist, and I'm far from a criminal. I realize that for all the bad cops you hear about on the news, most are decent folks who join the force for the "right reasons". Most of the personal interactions I've had with individual officers have been relatively pleasant, and I've always assumed that after all these years of not being a criminal (and being white), I deserve that privilege. So I found myself dumbfounded this afternoon, after daring to question an officer's seemingly inconsequential actions, to be on the receiving end of a torrent of verbal abuse.

Pasted below is my verbatim report to the Independent Police Review Board:
Today, I was verbally assaulted by a plainclothes officer. At approximately 3:30 PM on Wednesday, March 9, 2011, I was walking southbound on N. California Avenue, south of W. Logan Blvd. A silver unmarked police SUV ran through the intersection on a red light, and blocked the crosswalk as pedestrians waited to cross the street. I am very sensitive about motorists flouting the new crosswalk law, so I made a gesture of the arm toward the crosswalk. Driver of the vehicle flashed lights at me and the passenger asked what my problem was. I told him. He proceeded to verbally assault me, using much profanity and repeatedly insulting my intellect before driving away. There was absolutely no reason to act in this manner to a citizen who had tried to do no more wrong than point out an infraction of traffic law to authorities who are supposed to be on the lookout for the very same behavior. I found his actions to be reprehensible and completely unprofessional. Unfortunately, I did not get the license plate number before they drove off. I am copying this complaint to the fourteenth district and to the first ward alderman's office.
And that's my story. I guess it must be my own fault for thinking that the police should follow a law that they rarely enforce. The defense was "what was I supposed to do, run over the car in front of me?" Spoken by the passenger. That definitely makes me a "fucking moron" (in the repeated polite words of the officer). And my attempts to protest civilly and explain what upset me in the first place (all of which were interrupted with profanity-laced tirades) are further proof that I have a "big mouth". Further proof of my moron-hood was when I finally told him "Whatever, just go away." I didn't feel the need to be run in on some made-up bullshit because of this guy's control issues.

I suppose what he didn't count on was that this big-mouthed moron would know how to read the Chicago Police Department's Code of Conduct, which prohibits: 
Rule 8: Disrespect to or maltreatment of any person, while on or off duty. 
Rule 9: Engaging in any unjustified verbal or physical altercation with any person, while on or off duty.
Yeah, I'm a moron. I don't have very high hopes that anything will come of this. I didn't get the miscreant's name or badge number, but I do possess a very small bully pulpit in the form of this blog. I'm not so offended personally at being called a moron, and I probably would have walked home and shrugged it off. But the use of obscenities by a public servant in speaking to a law-abiding citizen was totally over the line in my opinion. Maybe Rahm Emanuel's election made him think this was an acceptable way to react, I dunno. I do know that if I spoke that way to somebody at my job, I would expect to be fired. This guy's probably laughing about it right now. Police constantly complain that the public doesn't assist or trust them, and with behavior like this it's not hard for me to see why. If you want to get respect, you need to give it. I wasn't keeping this guy from responding to an emergency, I wasn't questioning his skills as a policeman, I wasn't even all that upset until after the fact. This isn't about me, it's about a general lack of respect and civility on the part of the police. I'm not a prude, and have been known to use salty language on occasion, but I save it for the proper times and channels. One place I don't do it is on a public street, at full volume, in the middle of the afternoon, when there are kids nearby. If my 95-year-old grandmother were there, I think she would have slapped this asshole. 

And please, don't interpret this as a screed against cops. It's a screed against dickheads on power trips.

No comments:

Post a Comment