Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Police State?

Yesterday a friend shared a story with me that was so disturbing that I want to share it here so that others may know what is happening in our fair city. I will try to be brief and to the point.

Their teenage son was having an out-of-town friend over for the weekend and his mother drove from upstate NY to the city to deliver him to my friend's house. They live in the East Village. It was Friday evening. The mom double parked her car and unloaded her son and his goods and went inside to say a quick hello to my friend. Almost as soon as she entered the house, my friend's husband called out that the police had pulled up and she had better move her car or get a ticket. He went out to try to stop the police from ticketing. Almost immediately the police officer started screaming at my friend's husband to "get out of the way". He was taken aback by this reaction but the officer was quite aggressive to the point where he said, in jest, "hey don't bother her (the car's driver), arrest me instead." The officer pulled out her handcuffs and made towards him. He ran away (perhaps, in retrospect, this was a mistake but until now this had been a parking dispute). The officer called for back up. Meanwhile the friend had driven away (assuming she was now free to go) but had sirens wailing behind her by the time she reached the end of the block. She pulled over. The police asked her to get out of her car and hand over her keys. She got out and was asking why when the police slammed her up against the car and cuffed her. Back at my friend's house, six police officers entered her house looking for her husband and grabbed him, slammed into the wall (making a dent and breaking a framed picture), cuffed him and literally carried him out by the hand cuffs and threw him into the police car. This might be the time to mention that he is in his late 40s and slightly built - hardly a scary physical presence. When he complained that the handcuffs were too tight, they tightened them further. Three days later, his hands were still swollen and numb.

There were several witnesses to this display of police power, including a neighbor who is a lawyer who volunteered to act on my friend's behalf. As a result, both the car driver and my friend's husband were released a couple of hours later. They still must appear in court and my friend has been advised not to complain since to do so would mean tempting further police harassment. My friend described a moment of illumination during the whole drama when her husband was getting slammed around when she was thinking "I need to call the police!" and realizing: this IS the police.

I find it scary that anyone - and I mean anyone: this was a white, middle class, highly educated, middle aged guy - can end up handcuffed and in jail over double parking in this city. What is perhaps scarier is that, when my friend was telling this story, she set off a whole series of other people's stories about recent episodes of over zealous police actions.

The trickle-down effect of the Patriot Act?

1 comment:

dorina said...

this is a problem the african american community has been dealing with for a long long time. how or why is it not getting better, but only worse and moving into a white community? how do you improve relations when to complain to the same precinct only brings further harassment? and it's 2008 . . think of how long they have been living there . . where's the anger coming from? disconnection. miscommunication. lack of civility. understanding. compassion.