Memories: Police Encounters

I saw this come up in my suggested YouTube and watched it. If you are white, watch it. Because I know if you are black, you already know.

I recommend watching it to you – it’s only five minutes and I think it’s a good conversation about the difference white and black people have with police. It also made me reflect on my experiences with police while I’m driving.

Just the other day I was driving home from getting my son from daycare and I saw a cop sitting, clearly looking for speeders (and on a section of road notorious for speeding). Part of me was nastily glad. I hope he finds some Lexus or Mercedes driver going 15 over (ten-thousand percent possible right there!). Then I grimaced – literally – as I reminded myself the cop is more likely to look for the black kid keeping up with said Lexus or Mercedes. Damnit. DAMN IT.

My first encounter while I was a driver happened when I was nineteen or twenty. I lived in a semi-country-semi-suburban area outside Atlanta. The kind of area where drivers saw more deer than cars after about 7pm. It was summer and just getting dark, so I’d guess about 9pm. I was about halfway from “town” to home when I realized the SUV behind me was…. weird. To this day, I don’t know why that SUV freaked me out so much. But it did.

So I turned right into a neighborhood I knew horseshoed back to the same road. SUV followed. I snaked through the neighborhood and turned left out of the neighborhood – headed BACK to town. SUV followed. I grabbed my dad’s cell phone (I didn’t have one in those days, this was what decided my parents I needed one, not just using theirs when I might need one) and dialed 911. By now I was mildly hysterical. I started crying when the woman answered.

Two sheriffs met us at an intersection. The one in the silver pick-up truck followed me, the mustang followed the SUV (who now decided to stop following me – several miles back towards town). I pulled into a gas station and the white, middle-aged sheriff deputy got out to check on me. I was bawling like a baby. He got me a water from the gas station and asked me if I wanted him to follow me home. No. No thank you. He followed me a few miles towards my house before turning at an intersection.

My second was in about 2011 or 2012. It was early Oct. I was working for a company that ran a 24/7 call center and as the Sr. Trainer, I got to deal with the shit rolling down hill (there was me and a jr, it’s not like there was a lot I could pass along). I had been transitioning from my normal 9-6 to a 4pm-1am in Aug and Sept to a 3am-1pm “London” shift to train a new person in London. Yes, singular. It was rotten. Well, my car tag was due in Sept and I just plum forgot. And at 2am as I was driving to work a cop pulled me over in the middle of downtown Atlanta. It’s not like we blocked traffic – the only people who saw anything were any homeless people hanging around.

I got a ticket. Totally legit ticket because I hadn’t paid my tags. But during the entire encounter I felt no fear. The young black cop asked me if I knew why I had been pulled over and I said no. He told me about my tag and I think my jaw hit the asphalt right through my car’s floor. He could tell, I remember him very kindly explaining the judge might downgrade it to a warning if it was paid by the time I had a court date (it was!). He wrote my ticket and I went to work.

The last time was a little over a year later. I was running that late shift, and I was driving home close to 2am. I was on a 5-lane road (2 lanes one way, 2 the other, and middle turn lane). NO ONE was around, so I let my car just coast down a long, fairly steep hill. As I started up the next hill I saw the blue lights (with no siren). I actually was nervous as hell this time because (A) I was going almost 50 in a 35mph zone because of that last hill and (B) all those stories of women getting kidnapped, raped and murdered happened at night with a “cop” car and in that particular spot it was too dark to see anything but the lights.

There was a shopping center at the top of the hill and I pulled in and pulled under a nice, bright light – could totally see it was a real cop car. A white woman cop got out and approached.

Again she asked me if I knew why I was pulled over. I said no. She told me I was going 48. She asked where I was coming from and going to. Thank GOD I tended to dress in nice slacks and blouse for a company that nigh-on encouraged jeans and t-shirts. I looked like a businessy person and could honestly say I was leaving work and going home. She checked my licenses and insurance and told me to slow down and drive safe. She DID follow me to my condo’s turn-in about 2 miles further up the road.

I’ve been in two accidents (I rear-ended someone and someone rear-ended me) but I am not going to count those because it’s such a different dynamic from the get-go.

When I watched that video above I felt rage. MY experience has been a presumption of innocence. I have been treated by male, female, white and black cops with respect and dignity. Everyone deserves that. The fifth amendment is crystal clear here:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury […] nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;

Shall not be deprived of life.

Black Americans should not fear for their life before they receive due process. They deserve my experience.

Writer, nerd, and perpetual student. I am obsessed with books - both the reading and the making of them. If I won the lottery I would try to have the best private(ish) library in the world. It wouldn't be totally private because the whole purpose of having books is helping other people find a book they will love. I have 2 cats, Genkii (energy) and Kawaii (cutie). I will mention them regularly because they are a daily delight in my life. Granted, sometimes when I'm playing video games they are not so much "delight" as they are "distraction"... but I love them regardless.