What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Police Thinking

So I gt hit by a car on Thursday (9/13).  I was riding my bike in the bike lane on Christie street headed towards the Manhattan bridge.  A big black BMW SUV pulled out of standstill traffic and into the bike lane, thinking he'd get ahead while cutting me off.  When he got pinched and couldn't go any further I went around him and pointed to the bike lane and said “so where do we go?” “You're in the bike lane!?” He responded with with an abrasive Fuck You styled aggression filled response you'd only expect stereotyped from Jersey Shore.  I kinda kept moving slowly while responding in a kinder version biking legalese that didn't resemble backing down but wasn't aggressive like his but more matter of fact (those who know me can imagine..;).  As the lane opened a bit I started to go through, only to hear the roar of an engine in my left ear and all of a sudden I got hit on my left side and handle bars from behind (I think).  The wheel turned maybe, I went straight over the bars, the bike I think landed on or my hit back area while the car sped off.  It stopped briefly at the light ahead (as I tried to write down the license plate number), and then turned and was gone.  I lay on my stomach assessing my bits while others checked on me and tried to help me up.  I was amazed, and really just wanted this guy to not get away with it.  I called the 911 and some passers by in a car gave me a little first aid kit.

I refused an ambulance because I felt ok, I had a couple scrapes and bruises, but I'd had worse in football and life.  Of course, by the time the cops got there it was one hour and twenty minutes later and three calls to 911.  By this point my back and hip were starting to stiffen up.  But still I didn't think it was anything to get concerned about.  Really I just wanted to make sure this guy didn't get away with it.

The cop eventually pulls up and firstly wants to know if I need an ambulance.   I'm wishy-washy.  I don't know if I still have medicaid.  I think I do, but never got that confirmed as I lost my address before I got paperwork confirming it.  So I am reticent to get an ambulance as with no insurance and no money I'm screwed.  I can't afford that bill.  So I say no.  If money was no option, yeah, I'd have gotten checked out. But it is.  He pushes, "it's a simple yes or no answer." "yes or no?", as if someone just hit by a car thinks so clearly?  Kind of like, officer, are you an asshole?  Yes or no?  Come on, its a simple yes or no answer.  No you obviously are not. You have friends and family, people you love, things you do that show it.   No you are not an asshole.  So don't act like one right now to me. This was the way the conversation would go.  He then asked for my ID.  Which I had forgotten that day of all days.   He then proceeded to lecture me about not having an ID on me.  That I could be making up names and my life, and this incident.   That I could get a summons for not having a valid ID on me.   What?!?!  um, right....  Anyway, I questioned it subtly in an attempt to just get past it and move on.  Kind of an I don't need a drivers license to ride a bike, I don't have it what info do you need.  Needless to say he just continued on in his police speak aggressive tone.  The authoritative, shut the fuck up speech that they always give you when you ask a question or don't immediately jump as high as the ask you to.  It's like there's cop school where they send them to go learn how to verbally bludgeon people into submissiveness.  It's so sad.  I finally got to the point where I just said to him, “officer I just got hit by a car, it would really be nice if you could show a little compassion”.   He responded defensively and with vigor about how his job was to weed out people faking these claims.   That he had to be certain that I was telling the truth and not making things up.  Claiming it was his job to push me and to make me feel awkward to the point that if I was making my story up that I would waver and give up the attempt.  Basically, that I could just have a vendetta against someone and be filing a false police complaint.   Yeah well, if it didn't take an hour and twenty minutes for you to get there there would have still be witnesses....

Anyway, it was absurd.   To say that this was what he was supposed to do.  How he was trained to push people and to make sure they were in the right place.  As if getting hit by a car is an everyday occurrence and doesn't require any empathy.  Would you treat your grandmother like that?  Your mom?  Anyone you weren't assuming was a criminal?

This to me is what the problem is, and I hear it in the words of every police and law enforcement officer I speak to.  You are a criminal if you come in contact with me, you are a criminal in general until I eliminate that from my detectiving.  ----Pause---- I am writing this in the hospital and they just put a neck brace on me. It's tough to write in a neck brace ----Unpause----  So yeah, police officers always are looking for criminals.  If that is your soul goal, then how you treat people initially is going to come across as such.  It is tragic really.  After he and I got all done playing paperwork games and had developed a more friendly repore, I mentioned to him again that just as a thought that maybe he should work towards finding a better balance between doing his job and showing compassion in this type of situation.  We talked for another 15 minutes and I would consider him a friend at this point.  Yes, I consider everyone a friend, but you know what I mean.  I mean that is the way it always works with me! ;)  But still though, I think I got the message across to him.  He told me where he always is working there and writes tickets all the time for the bike lane.  But as it is, my point in writing this is to say that I think its horrible how cops speak to people.  Aggressive, authoritarian, and as if their authority is unquestionable and inherently legitimate no mater how just or lawful what they are saying.  They do not speak with respect or from a place of dignity for others.  Power over others that is all to often abused - as I felt it was with me after I was run down by a car. Sadly.

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