Ok, well that might be a bit of an exaggeration. (I wanted to get your attention.) But that is almost what it felt like when a young, female police officer had pulled me over several years ago. The situation was going down hill fast and before things were resolved, we were both hotter than "a two dollar pistol."
She had pulled me over for (of all things) not fastening my seatbelt. Now I am one to almost always fasten my seatbelt. I especially did so when Matthew was young, because I wanted to set an appropriate example. But on this particular day, I neglected to do so. The belt had recently been broken and it took a little extra time and effort to get it fastened. While I always made sure to take the time to fasten it if I was driving any significant distance; on this day, I had just finished my shopping at the grocery store, and I was going directly to the bank only a block away. I didn’t fasten.
I’m pretty sure in our state that officers cannot pull anyone over for simply a seatbelt infraction; there must be another reason to stop a vehicle. If it is then observed that the seatbelt has not been fastened, the officer can ticket you. But on this day, the local city police department was doing a "STEP" patrol, (I believe it was called) where the public had been warned through media (newspaper and television) that local officers would be targeting seatbelt offenders. If I remember correctly, for this week to ten days, or whatever it was, they needed no other reason to pull you over. At least I certainly don’t remember there being another reason. This was a long time ago though, and I probably don’t remember everything about the incident. More importantly, the reason I was pulled over isn’t the part of the situation that stuck with me anyway. It certainly wasn’t the first time I had been pulled over, and it certainly wasn’t (and won't be) the last.
What stuck with me in this particular instance was the arrogance and ignorance of the ticketing officer. It was also the first time I had ever had my Constitutional rights violated. So, yeah! That stuck with me; enough so that I want to write about that incident now. In light of all that has been taking place in regard to our Constitutional rights, I think it is something important to contemplate.
Things had started out alright; I knew about the extra patrol for the seatbelt violations, and I knew I was wrong. I have always been one of the strongest advocates for our police officers, believing it wrong to criticize anyone that publicly puts their life on the line daily. The attacks cops have taken in the movies and on television the last few decades are due to an agenda, I believe, but that is for a whole other discussion. Suffice it to say, I was raised to respect those in law enforcement, and we raised Matthew to respect those in authority as well. Again, on this particular day, I wanted to set an example for my seven year old son sitting in the seat next to me.
She came to my car window, her blond hair pulled back and her blue eyes sparkling. “Do you know why I pulled you over?” she probably asked. I don’t remember exactly, but that’s what they always say, isn’t it?
As I was digging through my purse for my license, she told me about the "stepped up" seatbelt patrol…"Yes, I am aware of it,” I’m sure I told her. She of course asked for proof of registration and insurance. As I was digging through the papers from my glove compartment, I was only half way listening to her words which were now directed at Matthew. She was commending him for having his seatbelt fastened, and told him she wanted to reward him with a coupon for an ice cream cone. As I continued to search for my documents, a buzzer sounded in my head, when I heard her ask him his birth date and what school he attended.
“Whoa, wait a minute,” I said. "Why do you need to know that?” She proceeded to tell me her liberal reasoning, and I stopped her. "No," I stated firmly but politely, "that is an invasion of our privacy, and he will not answer."
Well, she said if you want an ice cream, you have to answer.” I proceeded to tell her in that case we didn’t want an ice cream. I told her I would reward him myself with an ice cream cone since he was now expecting it. We would buy our own.
But she pushed…"It isn’t any different than taking your child's finger prints for safety," she argued. She shouldn’t have done that so forcefully, because she then got my lecture on why I believe that we should fingerprint criminals, not children. “There is no proof that fingerprinting children will keep my child safe. And I will not allow you to gather information on my child."
This new, little recruit wasn’t smart enough to let it end there. She condescendingly continued lecturing me with her liberal agenda, which I seriously doubt she learned at police academy, but probably more likely had been ingrained with her since she was just a youngster in the public schools herself.
“No, I already told you we don’t want your coupon, and if you’re going to offer a coupon to kids as a reward for fastening their seatbelt, it shouldn’t come with conditions.” I told her as adamantly as I could.
Things were escalating at this point. She wasn’t about to leave me with my own beliefs, and I wasn’t about to be lectured by a barely 21 year old rookie that didn't seem to know the first thing about freedom. At some point she reached down and turned on what I believed was a recorder so that she could record our conversation. I let her know I saw her do what she did.
“Well, yes, let’s do get this on tape,!” I told her. “But they aren’t going to see you roll your eyes at me like you have been doing the last few minutes, now are they!”
Ok, I really do not recommend that, but we were beyond the point of reasoning and I was angry at her insistance and condescension.
“You know what,” I said, “This is going nowhere, but you will NOT gather information on my child to put in a database." As I said this I calmly took the paper on which she had been writing facts about my child out of her hand.
“You won’t take my paper!” she screeched as she snatched it back out of my hand. I relented. I was smart enough not to push this situation further. “OK, but I will be having a talk with your commanding officer.” I said. "This is unacceptable, and if this is what the city is doing it needs to be stopped."
She continued venting in her arrogant way, and I really don’t remember all that was said, I just knew this wasn’t the example of a police officer that I wanted my 7 year old son to see. Neither did I want him to see me angry at her.
I wasn’t simply making idol threats however; the police station was our next stop. I remember going to the window and asking to speak to an officer in charge. This I did want Matthew to see. I wanted him to learn to stick up for his rights and to stand strong for that which he believes. I wanted him to be one to take action when necessary.
When questioned further about my reason for being there, I told the woman at the window it was in regard to a situation that I believed had been handled poorly and I had questions in regard to a new policy on which I had just been lectured.
Matt and I waited in the waiting room for only a few minutes when a middle-aged sergeant came out to speak with me. He listened politely and attentively as I explained the situation. His professionalism and demeanor presented a much better example for Matthew and I was encouraged that this experience would make up for the one that we just had.
As he explained the policy to me, he told me that yes, they were indeed keeping a database on our children and it was two-fold. One: It was to reward the children; but two, it was also used to act as a resource in minimizing crime; protecting children, and gathering information. He understood however, my concern about the invasion of our privacy, and knew full-well that the typical American citizen would have problems with this type of activity.
I explained my feelings, but I wouldn’t have had to because this man understood it all. He apologized for the way things had escalated and said it was in part due to lack of experience, and probably just a bit too aggressive behavior in a desire to live up to the position. I knew he was right.
Satisfied that he understood and appreciative that he was fully honest with me in the reason for the database, I left knowing my complaint had been acknowledged.
"This is wrong," I had told him, "and she was out of line." I admitted I was harsh with her too, but it had unnessarily escalated because she had pushed further than she had a right or reason. I guess I’m writing about this all these years later, because I still see this type of thing happening and probably a lot more often. Just today, I once again heard about how doctors are questioning our children about things doctors have no right to investigate – guns in the home, as one example. I have heard where parents were told they would have to leave the room as their child was examined. Here in our own community, I had a friend that received a lecture on home-schooling her children from their doctor as they all sat together in his office. This is unacceptable! I am writing to encourage parents not to put up with this kind of thing. We do not have to check our rights as parents at the door. Doctors, and cities and police officers do not know what is best for our children. We do not have to explain why we choose to home-school; why we might have a gun in the house; or why we agree or disagree with vaccinations. We just get to be parent, and we don’t have to violate even one aspect of our privacy. We get to ask questions as to why something is being done, and we are entitled to a truthful and respectful answer. We all lead busy lives and we don't always anticipate something like this happening. I only hope to encourage others to have their answer ready when it does happen. It is so very important!
The little rookie cop, I encountered that day? It wasn’t the end of it as far as she was concerned. Several months later, if not years, I encountered her again. At the time we were living on a busy street in the same small town. The problems in this area were beginning to increase, it seemed, just before we were able to sell our home and move from the area. One evening, I had heard tires squeal and a loud crash. Not again, I thought…it wasn’t the first time someone had crashed into our yard or in front of our home. I looked out the window to see a car squealing away, but they had knocked down the stop sign in front of our house. We lived on a busy street, at the time and I didn’t want anyone to be hurt if they neglected to stop because the sign was down. I thought it best to call and report it to our local police. Lucky me! Two officers came to question me further. You guessed it! It was the same little blond police officer that I had had the run-in with earlier. She came with the same arrogant and condescending attitude. I could read in her demeanor she remembered me, and she thought she finally was going to be vindicated. Her attitude screamed of “HAH!” Now, you need an officer!” Her actions screamed of "You people that treat us like “pigs” always end up needing us!” No, I don’t think I am reading to much into it…you would have had to be there, though to believe it, I'm sure.
What she didn’t understand is she will probably never meet anyone that respects law enforcement more than I do. What she failed to realize is, I didn’t need her on this evening. I was only calling to prevent someone from getting hurt…Whether that stop sign was put back up or not had no importance to me, other than hoping to help some one else. Nothing of mine was damaged; I wasn’t calling her for help, I simply didn’t want anyone to get hurt and thought the local authorities needed to know.
As I listened to her take charge of the questioning and inform me of my need of her service, I simply was too tired to fight back. Do you ever get that way…just plain tired of the stinking battle to help fight for our freedoms that so many don’t seem to understand or even care about anymore. I get that way every once in awhile. So it was on this evening. I was tired, and as the questioning began, I probably put up with more than would be normal. “Who else is in the house?” she asked. “Who else lives here and how old?” "Where does he go to school?" She thought it was her time to be vindicated, I’m sure.
“What do these questions have to do with me calling about a stop sign that is down in front of a busy street?” I quietly asked. I looked at the older male officer who was with her. I saw truth in his eyes. I know he saw it in mine.
“That will do,” he told me. “Thanks for the call.” I didn’t have to answer the female cop, the gentleman ended the report. The young female? Well, she simply smirked at me as she walked out the door like she had just won a battle…she wasn’t even smart enough to realize that she hadn’t won because her male partner had just put an official end to her intrusive questions.
It’s probably been ten years or more now since this all took place. I often think of that young lady when I hear of some of our rights being violated as they seem to be so often these days. Sometimes I find myself wondering if she ever had kids. I wonder if she ever got things figured out. Did she ever learn and benefit from the older officers that she worked with whom had greater understanding. I would almost bet that she remembers the nutty grey-haired lady that she thought was so clueless that she dared to speak out for that which she believes - in spite of receiving rolled eyes and disdain.
Truth is, I hope I am never too tired for rolled eyes and disdain...it shore ain't the first time I ever got rolled eyes for my comments and I'm sure it won't be the last.