The lights went on behind me and I pulled the Mini Cooper over to the berm. Yes, I got a ticket. Yes, I paid the ticket. And, YES, that year, the Goat put a Matchbook cop car in my Christmas stocking as a little reminder of my infraction.
But this post isn't about any of that. This post is about the way that cop handled the situation and what it says about me, you, and a dead little Cleveland boy.
I've only been pulled over a couple of times in my life, although I might be forgetting a ticket or two. Once when I was 17 and going about 40 in a 25, a cop pulled me over, asked for my license, saw it was my birthday and let me go. Another time I was in my mid-twenties, riding my motorcycle. A cop pulled me over. As he approached me, I took off my helmet and my hair spilled out, which obviously surprised him. He quickly scanned my license, told me to stay safe and sent me on my way.
Those cops were different than the one that pulled me over that day in the Mini. And, no, I don't mean about letting me off the hook. It was in the way he behaved. As he walked up to the immaculate Mini Cooper, he was crouched down, hand on his gun. He inched up to the window and just peeked in, minimizing the exposure of his head in the window. The guy was clearly assuming I was a threat and he was taking the precautionary offense in a potential micro arms race between him and me.
As he went through the process, his manner continued to be overtly guarded--as if I was already a suspect. (Which of course I am. We all are. Don't believe it? Go to the airport and see if they make you take off your shoes.) Nonetheless, I was taken back by his suspicious questions: Where you comin' from? What were you doin' over in Willoughby Hills? Where you going? and how he scanned the interior of my car.
Let's fast forward to the conclusion.
How many times have I heard comments from the pro-gun camp about an armed society is a polite society, or I love guns; I think everyone should have one?
You wanted to be an armed society? Okay, fine. You've got one, pal. And like it or not, we're going to collectively treated as such--whether it's little ol' Erin O'Brien in her Mini Cooper, a 12-year-old kid with a toy gun or a guy reaching for his wallet, cops are assuming we're all armed and dangerous, armed and drunk, or just plain armed and stupid.
So just hope you don't come face to face with a cop that misinterprets your actions or is poorly trained. In fact, best hope to not come in contact with any armed person with poor judgement and a mean hankerin' to stand his ground. Because there is no difference between Trayvon Martin's death and that of the 12-year-old boy killed by an idiotic* cop here in Cleveland over the weekend. They are both about the shoot-first-ask-questions-later mentality. They are both about the man with the gun acting as judge, jury and executioner.
I don't care if you've got a badge or not, manslaughter is not an appropriate response to "feeling threatened."
How the hell did we get here? When does it stop? When does it ever ever ever stop?
*a reader took exception to the word idiotic, and I agree it may not be the best choice of words. That said, what is the right word?
# # #