Feb 7, 2015

Our Friends the Police

So this happened to me about a month ago now I guess. I remember it was on New Years Day. The family and I got in the minivan and were taking a short trip to get some food I think. We were not even sure if any place would be open. A short drive from the house down to the area near the corner of Washington street and German Church road in Indianapolis. I turned off of German Church into the parking lot near the Marsh and was heading towards the Steak & Shake I think. No actually I was going to check the gas price at the Sam's club. Was going to get some gas in the vehicle.

Being that it is New Years Day there are not a lot of people out. Many places are closed and driving through the parking lot it is actually totally empty. I am approaching the Arby's and I notice two cops pulling out of the Arby's lot. They had been clearly talking to each other. I always wonder what cops are doing when I see this. I also saw it a lot at the surface lot I used to park at. Every day when I would leave the lot there would be two cops sitting with the drivers side doors next to each other so they could talk I guess without getting out of their respective cars. So back to the two pulling out of Arby's. One pulls out in front of me but as I approach there isn't enough time for the other and I have the right of way so he waits for me to pass. I am sitting at a stop sign for an intersection inside the parking lot. I approach the stop sign as I have many many times and look and clearly there are no cars entering the parking lot from the main road. Such cars would of course have the right of way and I made sure there were none coming. I then proceed to cross the intersection to check the prices of the gas at the Sams club.

And then it happens. The cop has his lights on behind me and clearly he wants me to stop and I've done something wrong I guess. This situation is always a bit stressful but when it happens to anyone (and it hasn't happened to me more than a few times in many years of driving). I honestly didn't know what could possibly be wrong and I thought maybe it was going to be something stupid like he was going to say I had a tail light out. Can they even really pull you over for that? Well, it turns out that the reason I am getting pulled over in the empty parking lot with my family in my minivan is because I did not come to a complete stop at that stop sign.

Okay I have to just stop now and take a break because it is stressing me out a bit thinking about the situation and how incredibly ridiculous it was.

... some time later ...

Ok so the cop stopped me to tell me that I didn't come to a complete stop. That may be true, I honestly do not remember because as I said my focus on crossing this intersection located inside a parking lot which was itself almost totally devoid of other cars was on making sure that I was not crossing into the path of traffic entering the lot which would have had the right of way. I have crossed this intersection many times since then and I pay a bit more attention. In some cases I come to a complete stop and in some I don't. I do not think that this is unsafe as I always slow to a point where I could stop if I saw traffic. The intersection has no visual barriers and you can tell from 20 feet back if you are going to need to stop or not.

Enough on the actual details of the intersection. What I want to talk about at this point is some of the interesting things that the cop said to me and the way that the interaction we had plays into the narrative that has been in the spotlight recently. Specifically the relationship between the police force and the people they serve and protect.

From the beginning of the pull over when the cop drove his car up next to mine and rolled down his window to talk to me through my window (this crime was not serious enough that he needed to get out of the car) he said something to the effect of "you can't do that in front of a cop" because I put him in a situation where if he didn't take action against my crime he would somehow be doing something wrong. So he felt he had to stop me and tell me I did something wrong. The thing about this that I find a little strange is that in the end he did not actually do anything about my crime and I think this kind of reinforces the idea that what I did was not really that bad. I doubt he would have had this mental dilemma if I was robbing a store.

Another interesting thing that happened was the way that during our conversation he wanted me to admit that I had done something wrong or dangerous. I really wanted to say to him that he was crazy and that I followed the "spirit" of the law in that I made sure it was safe to proceed even if I didn't actually come to a complete stop. I think in this case that is more important than the difference between stopping and rolling through at 1 or 2 miles-per-hour. But of course I said I agreed and what response does he expect? He is in a position to cause me financial and other harm and so of course I'm going to agree. He didn't actually change my viewpoint. I guess at that particular intersection I am now more likely to consider stopping, but I do not feel that I ever did anything wrong or that only slowing to 1 or 2 miles-per-hour is dangerous.

The thing that bothers me about the incident is that is in no way serves to create an environment of trust or friendship with the police. Rather it makes me more aware that even in the slightest of offence they can find reason to use their power. I totally disagree with his argument (and question why he even felt the need to justify himself in the first place) that he had to stop me because I didn't come to a complete stop. I really think he should be able to have the judgement to evaluate that in this situation my speed was slow enough and given the complete lack of other cars around there was not a need to make a complete stop.

Okay, well that's all for now. I hope I have conveyed the situation in a fair manner and that it makes sense. If you actually read all that congratulations. I can't believe I wrote this much.

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