Patterico's Pontifications


Constitutional Vanguard: The Story of a Really Bad Police Interaction

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:37 pm

It’s a true story, and it may change the way you think about police and race. Then again, you may already understand the lessons that others have to learn. Any way you slice it, though, it’s a harrowing incident.

He began to bark commands to me. He told me to open the center console so he could see the firearm. I did so slowly and loudly announcing each movement I was making.

He then told me to pick up the pistol “by the trigger guard with your thumb and forefinger.” At that time, believe it or not, I literally didn’t know what the word “forefinger” meant. So I hesitated and told him I didn’t know which finger he meant. That set him off even more and he began to scream at me to “do it now” then he said “don’t move” then he screamed again to “do it now” or he was “going to shoot me in the face.” He was also using various profanities but I don’t even remember what all he said.

I offered to allow him to handcuff me through the window and retrieve the firearm himself because I told him his instructions were confusing me. He did not calm down but at least he clarified that forefinger means index finger. I’d had simply never heard that before. I told him I was going to follow his commands but that I was terrified he was going to shoot me. He told me I was right to be scared because if I didn’t do exactly as he said he was going to shoot me.

Scary stuff. Read it all here. Subscribe for free here.

23 Responses to “Constitutional Vanguard: The Story of a Really Bad Police Interaction”

  1. There are cops out there who are complete A-holes, regardless of skin color.
    Mrs. Montagu was pulled over Easter morning, on her way to teach Sunday school, for a burnt out brake light, which was news to us. Because she couldn’t locate her insurance information fast enough, he threatened her with $600 worth of tickets, gave her a patronizing lecture, and let her off with a warning. Unbelievable. It felt like some sort of spiritual battle, this white-on-white incident.

    Paul Montagu (26e0d1)

  2. Good article. Well written with multiple good take-aways.

    What should happen to an officer like that after such a situation? Dismissed from the force? Disciplined with an aim of rehabilitating? Criminally charged? Civil action?

    nate_w (1f1d55)

  3. Nice switcheroo. The upshot: assholes come in all colors.

    norcal (01e272)

  4. Meh. Was stopped in LA leaving a grocery store at dusk because the light over my back license plate was out; was stopped and ticketed by another LA cop in morning rush hour traffic on the way to the office no less literally as I pulled out of a Texaco station into a non-moving traffic lane as I was simultaneously pulling my seat belt across my chest and snapping it into place– the ticket was for ‘not having my seat belt on.’ Just unreal. Cop was a total azzhole. Third time was a LA cop running a ticket trap pulling his weapon then ticketing me for not coming to a full complete stop at a three way ‘T’ intersection with nobody coming from the front, behind or to the right– on the left was a row of apartments — all literally outside of my own apartment building. Pulling his weapon was uncalled for– and frightening. Total $$ scam by them by them, too. They ticketed plenty of people at the same place all day. Hence, zero sympathy ever again for any LA cop caught in a pickle. They make the NYPD look like angels.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  5. It would seem that the mistake the driver made was to gratuitously mention that he had a gun with him in the car. The state trooper probably never would have noticed the gun if he hadn’t said anything about it. And the same thing also happened to Philando Castile. He, too, gratuitously mentioned that he had a gun with him in the car.

    But maybe not mentioning it could also be considered a mistake.

    Sammy Finkelman (51cd0c)

  6. @4: The only time I was really thinking about fighting a ticket was a “pretext” ticket I got. There’s an offramp from the S/B 405 (Signal Hill, I think) where there’s a stop sign that 99% of everyone will roll as you MUST turn right and the you have about 200 yards of visibility to the always-empty road to the left.

    But the CHP was running a sobriety checkpoint just around a bend to the right, and they had a perfect pretext for pulling everyone over. Everyone left there with a moving violation or a drunk driving charge. Grrrr.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  7. But maybe not mentioning it could also be considered a mistake.

    Like maybe if it was on top of the registration in the glovebox.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  8. There was another time I richly deserved a serious ticket, driving up the Antelope Valley Fwy at about 90. I was pulled over and was a polite as I could possibly be. The officer eventually said that he could have written me for reckless, but was giving me a ticket for 75MPH because I wasn’t being a jerk. Then he asked me why I was going so fast, and I said (truthfully) that I’d been out of the country for 3 weeks and was going to visit my girlfriend. He kind of nooded and said, “Understood, but take it a bit slower anyway.”

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  9. I have gotten my share of tickets, but nothing illustrates the power of politeness like the time another car and I both crossed a crosswalk after someone had stepped into it. I still don’t think I did anything wrong; the statute as I recall is written in a less than absolute fashion, but regardless: the cop waved both of us over. I immediately acknowledged my error and was polite and was let go with a warning. But the cop said: “I’m giving that other guy a ticket, though. He’s being a real asshole!”

    Patterico (e349ce)

  10. Sammy,

    In some places (Texas is one) a driver is required by law to tell the officer that he has a CCW/weapon.

    My former brother-in-law got pulled over in Texas, and forgot to tell the cop about his CCW and gun in the car. He got quite a chewing-out over it.

    norcal (01e272)

  11. Clarification: He initially forgot, and then told the cop.

    norcal (01e272)

  12. Alabama, right?

    Defense attorney: Membahs o’ the jury. Ah respeckfully suggest that a gennuman what has a CCW and cla’ms not to know what a foahfingah is, may be less than fo’thcomin’ in othuh respecks, as well.

    Plaintiff’s attorney: Objekshun, Yo Honnuh!

    Judge: What is the basis of your objection, Mr. Wood?

    Plaintiff’s attorney: A’guin’ facks not in evidence, Yo Honnuh. Mah cla’nt din’t testafah that thuh troopah said “foahfingah”. He clea’ly testafahd that thuh wo’d that thuh troopah used was “forefinger”.

    nk (1d9030)

  13. “fourfinger”.

    Sammy Finkelman (51cd0c)

  14. Somebody has been reading Mark Twain again. 🙂

    norcal (01e272)

  15. In-between college and law school, I used to audit (as in attend the public meetings and read the reports of) the Chicago Police Board and the then Office of Professional Standards. This would have been put down, at worst, as “verbal abuse”.

    nk (1d9030)

  16. More than the occasional unpleasant interaction with a police officer, what really unsettles me is their potential abuse of civil forfeiture laws. See, for example:
    “Policing for Profit.”

    Roger (e34354)

  17. This black woman had a ban police interaction. It sounded like the police used far more force then was needed until i got to this part.

    Bottom said she was driving to Raleigh for her great aunt’s funeral on the night of May 30, 2019. She said she was playing loud music inside her car and initially didn’t realize that police were trying to stop her. Once she did realize police were behind her, she said, she tried to find a place to pull off the road — “somewhere safe where I’d be around lights and people.”

    This, her lawsuit alleges, is what happened next:

    While following Bottom, Officer Barkalow referred to Bottom by several derogatory terms that were recorded by his body camera, according to the suit.

    Another officer then used spike strips to immobilize her car, which came to a stop on the highway median.

    Once Bottom was face down on the ground, officers tried to twist her arms behind her back. Bottom “shouted with pain” and told the officers to stop hurting her, saying that a previous injury prevented her from putting her arms behind her back, according to the complaint.

    Barkalow forced her left arm behind her to the point where her wrist was near her neck, the suit states.

    “Eventually the force applied by Defendant officers caused Plaintiff’s shoulder to “pop,” tearing her rotator cuff and causing severe injury,” the lawsuit states.

    How long do you have to look for safe and well lit place before the police deploy spike strips? It seems like that detail would be very pertinent to the story.

    Time123 (441f53)

  18. I guess one conclusion is that by a combination of hiring problems and bad training, a significant number of police are going to abuse their authority and overreact to any perceived threat, including overreacting lethally. And if black men or women are more often perceived as a threat because of their race, then statistically they are going to more often be hassled than is warranted.

    None of which is to say that bad police behavior is limited to black people. For another example of terrible police behavior you can watch this video of two cops from Loveland Colorado body slamming a 73 year old white woman with dementia and dislocating her shoulder because they thought she shoplifted.

    So one part of the solution is to systematically reform policing in America to eliminate the idea of militarized warriors and figure out some other model. And another solution to racial unrest right now is to work on people’s perceptions and biases. But the combination of the two, bad policing and ingrained racial beliefs, is toxic too often.

    Victor (4959fb)

  19. @Paterrico: any chance you could post your sourcing on that Alabama story? This is great stuff!

    whembly (3bda0a)

  20. One of my pet peeves is conflicting commands.
    At my company, when we are communicating with a crane operator or any operator, the foreman takes the communication from the men and distills it to the operator.

    I think cops try to do this, but it often breaks down as more cops arrive and each have their own perspective visually and situationally, but a single cop who issues conflicting commands equals nightmare. One thing at a time please.

    One night ancient history juvenile delinquency ago, had a cop tell me “Freeze, I got 6 rounds of .38 pointed right at you” but he was bluffing. I didn’t think he ever could really see me and I knew he couldn’t get to me anyway. He was hopping mad and sort of stuck in a 30 yard deep blackberry and poison oak bramble that was between us. I ran a few yards deeper into an orchard where my friends were hiding and we all started raining oranges over trees and understory at his flashlight to add insult to injury for threatening me with a gun. I feel bad about it now. He tried turning off his flashlight to stop being an easy target, but he couldn’t get through the bramble without it. I always imagine him getting back to the station sticky with orange juice and covered in blackberry thorns and starting to itch from the poison oak.

    steveg (ebe7c1)

  21. Cross posted from the substack.

    This is a case you might find interesting. A 69 year old black librarian was pulled from her car by her hair and had her arm broken by a white officer after going 10 miles per hour over the speed limit.

    She ignored multiple marked patrol cars for 10 miles and only came to stop after her tires were spiked. She was pulled forcibly from the car by her hair but once cuffed no further force was used.

    It probably wasn’t necessary to drag her from the car and cuff her forcefully, But i don’t know if the officers could reasonably be expected to know that.

    Interesting to see how the court case goes.

    Time123 (441f53)

  22. @Paterrico: any chance you could post your sourcing on that Alabama story? This is great stuff!

    I can’t. It’s someone I trust who wishes to remain anonymous.

    Patterico (e349ce)

  23. Meanwhile:

    In continuing to restructure the Austin Police Department, the City Council on Thursday voted to move 911 communications and several other services out of police control and into other city departments.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

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