Sunday, December 07, 2014


I got pulled over the other night.

Reason I thought about that is that Mannion - whose opinion on cinema I just cited - has a post up about being jacked around by cops.

The thing about my experience is that it was clearly a bullshit stop. I was under the speed limit, in a very quiet street, and other than that these gomers had no real reason to pull me over. The excuse the sheriff's deputy used was that I "had a headlight out", which is something you can see every night you drive around here - we have no annual state inspection, so there's no real pressure to replace a dud headlight - but the real reason is that I was tired and driving cautiously which to these jokers probably meant "this guy's probably had a few, so let's stop him and see what we can find."

They went into full-on "Cops" mode; lit up the searchlight, came up on both sides of the vehicle...and suddenly realized that 1) I was a white guy wearing a safety vest 2) driving a pickup with a company logo on the side. They did the usual ID check just because otherwise it would have been WAY too obvious that is was a bullshit stop and then let me walk even though the insurance card I presented was expired (I had the current one in the key-pouch but had forgotten that was where it was).

I didn't get jacked around...other than 15 minutes of my life that I'll never get back. And I was very polite and cooperative, so there were no other consequences. But I drove away swearing a blue streak at the Washington County Sheriff's Department from the Sheriff himself to the lowest garage mechanic as a bunch of ticket-happy officious assholes.

There's been a lot of coverage about "militarized police" and the like in the wake of fairly obviously moron-grade fuckup shootings by trigger-happy cops. But IMO these sorts of bullshit traffic stops are just as bad for the coppers' standing in the public eye. They're so obviously about "we can fuck with these peons so let's do it and find out what happens" that it's difficult for the citizens involved to walk away with much respect for the cops. Which is pretty crucial, given that when the impartiality of the enforcers of the law becomes obviously questionable respect for the law itself comes into question as well.

So much for Officer Friendly.


Ael said...

It was a huge mistake to give police traffic enforcement duties In most places, cops don't give parking tickets and they should not give speeding tickets either.

Since everyone (to a first approximation) speeds, this makes the police everyone's enemy. They should be reserved for enforcement of actual crimes.

Anonymous said...

Now imagine your "bs stop" when you're a middle aged black dude and his bi-racial son, driving in Dad's rather pricey red convertible when the cop pulls the "headlight" number on you. Which is particularly aggravating as a fair number of my friends are in LE and so I know all the routines. Lucky for me, I'm well spoken, know the drill and most importantly, AM FRIENDS WITH THE CITY COUNCILMAN WHO OVERSEES THE PD. But still, what if I was just some brother without the connections? It makes you think. Well, it makes me think.

FDChief said...

Ael: And the REALLY irking thing about this stop is that I SO wasn't speeding - in fact, I was probably doing 10mph UNDER the speed limit. Like I said - it was a bullshit stop, a fishing expedition to see if they could come up with something to run me around with.

So, ANON, yes, that's kind of the whole point; I'm a middle-aged, short-haired white guy driving a company truck. Turn me into a Mexican guy in an un-marked landscape truck, or a black guy in an old Ford Ranger, or a punk kid in a beater Chevy and it doesn't take much thinking to figure out that things could - and probably would - go a hell of a lot worse.

That was my point; these sorts of stops are asshole plays and in making them the coppers engender two or five or ten people who resent the hell out of them for every tiny crime they crush. Not worth the effort, IMO, but obviously the coppers think differently.

Ael said...

On the other hand, in Canada, most drunk or impaired drivers are caught doing 5-10 km/hr *below* the speed limit.

It turns out that many drunk drivers will deliberately go well below the speed limit in the mistaken belief that they won't get stopped. Of course, since only old people, nuns and drunks drive below the speed limit, the drunks stick out like sore thumbs.

When the cops came up to you, they probably took a deep breath (and stuck their head into your window) to see if they could smell any booze. Once they realized that you were a sober old man, they had nothing more to say to you.

Anonymous said...

So, did you have a headlight out?

I was pulled over once for having a tail light out but the Hwy Patrolman was the epitome of courtesy. I have a better story about a motorcycle cop having either a near stroke or a painful psychotic break who I thought was going to shoot me even though I had done nothing wrong - but that story is too long and funny for this venue. :)


FDChief said...

Jill: Yep. But that's not all that unusual; lots of cars around here are technically in violation of the ORegon vehicle codes. There's no manditory state inspection, so there's no pressure to repair little problems. It was pretty clear from the cops' approach that they were counting on my slow driving to be an indication that I'd had a few and were fishing for some sort of bigger offense. Had I been anything but a nice conventional middle-aged white guy I'm not sure I would have walked even though it was pretty clear that I was sober.

I get that cops had a pretty shitty job; they're required to make people do things they don't want to do. But it's this sort of petty bullshit that gets them the sort of dislike and distrust that makes their jobs harder. I don't get the point.

Lisa said...

I've been on the receiving end of good and bad policing. Perhaps it's like everything else, save they can impose a direct penalty.

While rubbernecking around the upscale Bratenahl neighborhood in Cleveland, a female cop pulled Jim over, asked his purpose for being in the neighborhood, and then followed/escorted him out of the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, minutes away, on the other side of the tracks (where he grew up), one may case the joint for hours and see nary a cop; they show up only when they must take a report after a shooting occurs.

I remember a college friend of mine pulled over and detained on the side of the road for 30+minutes while they ran something or other, claiming there was a report about someone like him driving a truck like his.

This was the most straight-arrow white guy, BUT he rode a bike, too, and so wore knee boots and a leather jacket, and he had the unfortunate habit of chewing tobacco, so he looked like "bad boy", though he was not.

But his old truck -- fading black paint and a hand-stenciled picture of a dragon on the door -- made it highly unlikely there was another like him out there. The cops were razzing him for some reason.

I don't understand it, either.