Finding Common Ground on a Country Road

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Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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71 Responses

  1. Avatar aidian says:

    So nice that the pig had something in common with you. Doesn’t excuse the fact that he’d just set up a roadblock and demanded to see your papers, please. I hate hate hate the idea of cops setting up checkpoints. It’s a sham — the titular excuse is to crackdown on DUIs, but at least around here what happens is they make 10-20 times more busts for various license violations, and that makes them nothing but a check of your papers. They’re also a huge waste of tax money — all that overtime given to already overpaid cops comes from NHTSA grant money. But mostly it’s just the thought of guys with guns forcing you to display your paperwork for no reason that makes them feel just un-American in some fundamental way.

    Of course, the time to tell the deputy all this would be when your BAC was a little lower…

    /rantReport

  2. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Did you ever read Cannery Row? One of its chapters is an epic frog hunt.Report

  3. Avatar Freeman says:

    When it comes to the moral in there somewhere, having one can of beer while driving doesn’t bother me near so much as throwing the cans out the window! Probably happens a lot at roadblocks, though. NHTSA grants should carry a stipulation that part of the grant goes to roadside clean-up after the event.Report

  4. Avatar Kazzy says:

    At the risk of being a party pooper, I find such behavior by the cops concerning. If people get a pass for having something in common… well, who tends to find themselves in positions of power, in position to give passes? Members of the dominant culture. Who are these powerful people less likely to have something in common with? Members of marginalized groups. Therefore, the consequence of such a tendency is to further marginalize already marginalized groups.

    How do you think the cops would have responded to a car full of Chinese-Americans headed to a Chinese New Year celebration? If it would have been different, is that fair? Just?Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

      Everybody likes fireworks!

      More seriously, this reaction is similar to mine. “Common ground” is a nice euphemism here, though.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Chris says:

        ‘particularly rednecks. *ducks*
        We get a grand view of illegal fireworks out our window on the Fourth.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Chris says:

        Yeah, if Mike and his friends were black, there would have been no exception for “common ground.” I found that a bit disturbing.

        Drinking and driving is a very serious crime, IMO. Especially to those of us who have lost loved ones to its stupidity.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy says:

      I agree. I can’t imagine African-Americans or Hispanic Americans getting an easy time anywhere. You either go lightly or harsh on everybody.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        You’ve obviously not heard of “Driving While White”.
        Maybe equal opportunity profiling isn’t such a thing where you live, dunno.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

        No one has heard of “Driving While White” because driving while white is not a thing.

        “Equal Opportunity Profiling” isn’t a thing either. If it is “equal opportunity”, it is not profiling.

        I usually ignore you, Kim, but this is just a new level of idiocy.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Kazzy,
        It’s a thing around here. White guy in a black neighborhood after dark?
        Gonna get pulled over.

        The profiling part of the game is just looking at someone’s race, looking at where they’re driving (whose neighborhood), and doing the math.

        http://old.post-gazette.com/columnists/19980925tony5.asp

        not from where I live, but still…:
        http://arstechnica.com/civis/viewtopic.php?p=20590091Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        two links == modpurgatory.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

        What’d you do, Google “Driving While White” and share the first two links? Did you even read what they said? The first one offers no justification for the author’s use of the term and what little else I could find on the case indicates Gross was rightly pulled over, albeit the beating he apparently suffered was obviously ridiculous. But white people getting abused by the police doesn’t mean that profiling is “equal opportunity”. The second link is simply one college kid’s account of what happened.

        Show me data that shows whites get pulled over disproportionately and maybe we can talk.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I’ve heard stories told by my cousin, the assistant police chief of Augusta, Georgia. He’d routinely bring in black and Hispanic officers to sort out messes within the minority communities, precisely because nobody would trust a white police officer in those situations. He actively sought out minority officers, recruited in the black neighbourhoods, pointing out the problem: after generations of mistrust and ill-will, neither side can easily back away from their positions. So if you want justice in your communities, step up to the plate and become a police officer, you’re badly needed.

        If people are getting off Easy, I think discretion counts for something in those situations. Police officers must deal with the ragged edge of society all day long, nights and weekends too. I don’t want white officers playing Good Old Boy and I don’t want black officers playing at the black version of it, either.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Kazzy,
        It’s… somewhat anecdotal, but if you want to go read Philippe Bourgois, you can find him talking about what it’s like to get searched in your own neighborhood because you look white.

        Under no circumstances ought anyone to take “driving while white” to be on an equal playing field with “driving while black”… If cops are doing the former, it means that a white guy is well advised to not go into a few neighborhoods (most of which don’t have much he would be looking for anyway, except for Trouble). If cops are doing the latter, well, a black man pretty much can’t leave his own dang neighborhood.

        I apologize if the internet lost the irony in transmission.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

        BlaiseP, I’m all for discretion when it comes to policing and prosecution. The goal should be as few people as possible going through the criminal justice system at any stage from the initial confrontation with the police to a full criminal trial. Jail as few people as possible. What I’m not for is discretion being about race. If discretion is about race, that is Whites and East Asians get it but nobody else does than I’m really not for it all. Discretion for everybody.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Lee,
        I completely concur.

        Some folks are nasty, evil people who need to be pulled off the streets (and possibly sent for an psych eval, with particular emphasis on empathy and impulse control).

        Lotta times you got kids, though, who are just being stupid.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @leeesq as Mr. Punch “‘at’s the way ye do it!”

        First line of contact with the justice system is the police officer. Insofar as he’s a decent human being, I say give the officer the power of discretion.

        But where he’s been a horrid, sweaty dick and abused his powers, he shouldn’t be given such powers. That means accountability. Every police force needs an ombudsman of sorts, someone who keeps those nuts and bolts to the right level of torque. It can’t be easy, out there on the ragged edge of society. I couldn’t do it. I’d lose perspective. After a while, everyone would start looking like a crook to me.

        When I was in the Army, we had this guy in S2, superb linguist, he had a couple of people from the local community who would gather complaints about various rudenesses and assorted stupidities. Often, we wouldn’t know we’d offended, but when we did, this S2 guy would tell us about it and we’d have to go out and make amends or apologies or whatever the situation called for. Everyone, every agency with powers over others, needs an ombudsman, someone with the power to sort things out.

        Without some sense of accountability on both sides, it’s hard to be an officer of the law or a commander of men. Confidence-building gestures go a long ways toward solid communities. But without the accountability which keeps watch on the custodians of power, all such gestures will fail.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to LeeEsq says:

        When I was in the Army, we had this guy in S2, superb linguist

        Well, that’s because the guys in S2 are intelligentReport

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Kazzy says:

      Concurred.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

      Yeah, sorry, I have to say this is sort of my reaction too (which doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have reacted with relief/camaraderie if I were Mike – it’s natural to feel that way too).

      As you guys know, I come from a Southern family, but don’t consider myself particularly “Southern” (where I grew up was mostly populated by transplanted Northerners). I don’t have an accent (but I pick one up pretty quickly if I am around my cousins etc.) I am pretty culturally different from them – I was a suburban kid – malls and movies, not hunting and fishing.

      Anyway, I have a family member who is a good ol’ boy. Hunter etc. Smart as hell, hard working, very successful in his professional/working life.

      He’s also a lifelong, serious potsmoker. Anyway, he got pulled over for speeding somewhere in Georgia, with a truck cab full of smoke and visible paraphernalia (a packed pipe).

      And the good ol’ boy cop let him off with a “cut it out, slow down” warning, because they “understood” each other.

      Now, on the one hand, cool – I don’t think pot should be a crime, and while I DO think you shouldn’t be smoking and driving, this guy has been doing it his whole life, and frankly I’d probably rather ride with him while he’s stoned, than with many other people sober.

      But on the other hand, this is TOTAL CRAP. Not only would a black or hispanic person not have gotten the same treatment: neither would I, even though I’m white. I pretty consistently have had bad interactions with authority figures like cops because – and I know this will shock y’all – I sometimes come across as smart-alecky without always meaning to. I don’t have an accent, and I talk fast, and I use big words, and I always have since I was a kid. I’d have been on my way to the pokey right quick.

      And I resent that. I understand the concept of “police discretion”, and I generally support it (for reasons of practicality/sustainability/local judgement) – but it’s really easy for “discretion” to shade into “favoritism/corruption/injustice/unfairness”.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

        I should make clear that I take no issue with how Mike handled the situation or his sense of relief as to how it resolved himself.

        Jaybird (at least I think it is Jaybird) often talks about whether arresting everyone for weed or just black people for weed is more unjust. On the one hand, you have more people going to jail for something they probably shouldn’t go to jail for; on the other, you have racism. It’s a tricky question to answer.

        So, the specifics of the situation don’t bother me so much (though they do bother me a bit) as does Mike’s quasi-conclusion.

        “…I like to think the true lesson is that just about anyone will give you a pass if you find something in common with them. On a two-lane country road in Kentucky, that just might be a love of chasing frogs.”

        To me, that seems to scream “unacknowledged privilege!” What Mike presumably sees as a nice little slice of life a whole bunch of people see as indicative of oppression.

        One’s interactions with the law should not be predicated upon how much they have in common with the people writing, enforcing, or judging the laws.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        Eh, I don’t want to overstate the case into large-scale “screaming privilege” and “oppression”. Flip the story around, so that it’s a black cop letting some black guys off with a warning for some minor indiscretion – that still would strike me as unfair, if I feel like I wouldn’t have gotten the same consideration, but I wouldn’t want to draw larger conclusions from it, other than “sometimes life’s not fair, and officer discretion is still *generally* a good”.

        Many would hear my story and say that the real moral is that I should learn to come off as less smart-alecky – slow/dumb down my speech, be more visibly deferential to the officer, etc.

        And they wouldn’t be *entirely* wrong. For self-preservation alone, I have tried to learn better habits in my interactions with authority figures like cops. And that’s got little to do with race or class oppression.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

        I’m talking about how the story might be perceived. No shortage of people can see it as an example of privilege and/or oppression. It is emblematic of something bigger, even if on its own it is something relatively minor. Well, as minor as drinking and driving can be.

        I don’t think we should undersell that last point. Maybe the driver wasn’t drunk at the moment he interacted with the cop, but if he already demonstrated he was willing to drink a beer while driving, why should we think he wasn’t going to proceed to drink several beers while frogging before driving the whole crew back home? This wasn’t quite the same as looking the other way over a dime bag. This cop potentially put the lives of the four guys in the car and anyone else on the road that night at risk because of a cultural connection.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy says:

      I think in most parts of the country Asians, especially East Asians, would be treated leniently. Its African-Americans, Hispanics, Middle Easterners, and people who look “Muslim” are goign to be given the hard time.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Would the Chinese-Americans have “connected” with the officer as Mike did?

        I’m not necessarily talking about discrimination, which you are right impacts members of different groups differently. This is more about privilege, which Glyph points out not even all white people have, as it can be highly contextual.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Maybe not have connected but I can easily see Chinese-Americans be given the benefit of the doubt in the same way that White Americans are because of a mixture of positive stereotyping and racial profiling.Report

  5. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    A pass on what, exactly?Report

  6. Avatar Patrick says:

    And I resent that. I understand the concept of “police discretion”, and I generally support it (for reasons of practicality/sustainability/local judgement) – but it’s really easy for “discretion” to shade into “favoritism/corruption/injustice/unfairness”.

    To toss a firebomb in a crowded room, let me point out that dealing with people in positions of power is also something of an acquired skill. Presenting yourself to police officers, or judges, or potential employers (or potential mates for that matter), etc., whether you’re white or black or foreign or domestic… that works best when you suss out the person and present what they find most accessible, not when you just “be yourself”.

    While I’ll agree with the generally offered statement here that “police ought not to give prejudicial treatment to one group or another”, it’s pretty much human nature for people to give advantageous treatment to people whom they find trustworthy. Expecting otherwise is expecting robot police.

    This is actually a very good thing, because the vast, vast majority of transactions are greatly facilitated by the judicious use of discretion. We really don’t want to tromp on that; rather, we should be looking to extend it.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Patrick says:

      Police kinda suck at determining trustworthiness.

      Robot police might do a better job, if only because they’d piss off the People In Power, and then Laws Would Change.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kim says:

        Heh. Policemen do just fine. Last thing anyone wants is some goddamn Barney Fife / Robocop barging into some troubled situation. I want two human beings rolling up, capable of doing a human assessment of human problems.

        Sick to death of all this Hatin’ on Authority Figures. I’m a Liberal, not some Pimply Adolescent who thinks dad’s a tyrant and the cops are, too. There’s a human being inside that uniform. Nor do I hold with this conspiratorial nonsense about People in Power. Fact is, street level police officers are not people with very much power. Mike Dwyer and his buddies managed to convince a police officer they were human beings, just out for a night of gigging frogs. So what if they got away with violating some open liquor law, they were just boys out at night having a good time, as boys will — and robots won’t — and they furnished a plausible reason for being out there.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kim says:

        “Fact is, street level police officers are not people with very much power.”

        Tell that to all the people killed by police each year.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Kim says:

        I will just echo Blasé here. I come from a cop family so of course I am biased, but my grandfather was on the Louisville PD for 40 years and he told me dozens of stories about looking the other way on what he called ‘small crimes’. It created a lot of goodwill for him in a time when people still knew their local beat cop by name and actually respected them. Those people were helpful when more serious crimes were being investigated.

        I should clarify in the story here that I do not know for certain that the cop suspected us of any wrongdoing. When I say he ‘gave us a pass’ what I mean is that he could have been a dick and searched the heck out of the car just because he was bored on a holiday weekend. Having no open containers in the car and no one legally over-the limit he would have found nothing technically illegal. So the ‘pass’ he gave us was simply not to harass us and also it was cool that we met a fellow frog-chaser.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Kim says:

        Blaise,
        As to whether cops are tyrants… I’m certain you’ve lived in places where cops were bought and sold, and places where they weren’t. I know where I’d rather live.

        Some cops get in mondo big trouble cause they don’t know who they shouldn’t arrest.

        An’ I had my way, we’d pay cops double and expect something better out of them than the petty assholery that we sometimes get (note: I KNOW it’s not the cops fault if a neighbor calls to complain about perfectly legal business. Doesn’t mean that the cop isn’t being empowered (ordered) to go be a perfectly fine asshole).Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Kim says:

        BP – Cops are human, no doubt and I agree that it’s a tough job – we pay them to be society’s paranoiacs, and they consistently see people at their worst, and I wouldn’t want the job.

        But.

        I have been first- and second-hand witness to a couple incidents of petty, low-level police dishonesty and abuse in citizen interactions with cops. Incidents where there was frankly not much real incentive for police doing the wrong thing, (the downside for the cop of doing the right thing would have been non-existent, or negligible) – and yet they did the wrong thing anyway. Damaged property. Reckless endangerment. Beating someone who was in no way a threat. And bald-faced lying after the incidents so that the victim is cast as a malefactor (“Resisting arrest” is what they call it, when a 120-pound guy falls to the floor to escape the nightstick’s blows, and if a cop car accidentally hits yours while it’s attempting to pass you at high speed, expect to be hit also with the ludicrous and false charge of “backing up on a highway”).

        And these experiences, as much as reading Balko, or seeing whatever the LAPD or NYPD got up to last week, have colored my view of cops.

        I can only imagine how people from different backgrounds than me see them.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Kim says:

        The cop should have made a public example of you to create an incentive not to drink and drive, which is a major problemin the U.S., still.

        “In the United States the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 17,941 people died in 2006 in alcohol-related collisions, representing 40% of total traffic deaths in the US. NHTSA states 275,000 were injured in alcohol-related accidents in 2003.[1]”

        Also, this is relevant:

        “In countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia drunk driving and deaths caused by drunk driving are considerably lower than the USA. Drunk driving deaths in the UK (population 61 million, 31 million cars) were 380 in 2010 (12% of all fatal accidents).[36][37] In California (population 36 million, 32 million cars) there were 1,489 deaths from traffic accidents related to “alcohol or other drugs” in 2007 (22% of all fatal accidents).[38][39] Alcohol consumption per capita in the UK and Australia is higher than the US and the legal age for drinking lower.
        Research in the United Kingdom has shown that the danger group for drunk driving is young men in their early 20s rather than teenagers.[40] It is not uncommon for police forces in Australia to randomly stop motorists and submit them to a Random breath test. This test involves speaking or blowing into a hand held device to give a reading. Refusing a roadside test is an offense, and is subject to the same penalty as high range drunk driving. This detection method is not employed in the UK, and it is not an offence for a fully licenced driver to drive with a BAC of less than 0.08% (which it is in Australia). Also in Australia it is an offence for any person driving on Learner or probationary (‘P1 or P2’) plates (aged under 20years) to drive with any alcohol at all in your system. The BAC must be 0.00% and still remains under 0.05% for an “instructing a learner”.
        Unlike the USA these countries do not see restricting access to alcohol as having any useful role to play in reducing drunk driving. Their experience is that random breath tests, severe penalties, including imprisonment for a first offense (in UK), combined with blanket public service broadcasting are a more effective strategy.[41]”

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drunk_driving_in_the_United_StatesReport

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kim says:

        I think I’ve made my position clear enough about how to handle abuses of police power.

        I’ve seen police pull some ugly shit but not in a situation where I couldn’t go down to the police station and write up a complaint, promising I’d send it round to that enterprising young fellow down at the newspaper if I didn’t get some action. At least in the USA. Where there’s no accountability, as in Nigeria or Guatemala, where the policemen will ask for bribes, I just don’t get involved with them, preferring other routes to settling disputes, all of which would be considered unlawful in the Land of the Free.

        Shot a burglar dead in my restaurant in Xela. Caught him dead to rights in my kitchen, with a sack full of my silverware. Shot him right through the chest, dragged his body out into the street, found a policeman, gave him a sum of US currency and told him to make the problem go away. It did. I mopped up the blood smear from the doorway back into the kitchen and opened for business. No problem.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Kim says:

        Anecdotally, I have noticed a difference between cops (especially Mounties) in Canada and cops here in the U.S. (especially in NYPD).

        Anecdotally, I also think the RCMP (and some local police forces in Canada, too) has harsher entry requirements and is run more lke a profession, which makes the Canadian bacon more professional.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Kim says:

        Mike,

        As someone without family members who are police officers, but who has had to deal with them occasionally, rarely without coming away steamed at their actions and attitude, and who has paid attention to the too-frequent abuses of police power (on one of which I have a guest post appearing shortly), I too am biased.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Kim says:

        Let me take back some of that previous comment about RCMP vs. U.S. cops. I have no good reason to think that U.S. cops are less professional on the whole and shouldn’t have suggested such.

        However, I do think it is really interesting and unfortunate that we (as a people, not just this blog) don’t spend more time discussing the education, continuing education, and entry requirements into the police force as an important (amd controversial) political issue. Because it is an important issue to the polis.

        One of the things Plato is most concerned about in the Republic is the education and training of the guardians (a group that would include police, soldiers, public bureaucrats, educators, and politicians, in our terms, but we can focus on police).

        We seem to want to think about the police in moral terms. Either they are heroes or villains. (The movies are surely partly to blame for this.) But that is an illusion. Police are neither. They are just regular people, trying to do something that all of us would find difficult. So, the question is how do we train them to do what we need them to do.

        Plato suggests that the guardians need to be raised from the time they are children to never touch gold (money) and to think that the city is their parent and to think that their souls are especially good and should never be corrupted. Whether these metaphors are useful or awful is interesting.

        I remember reading somewhere that the FBI used to (still does?) recruit a lot of Mormons straight out of college. The goal was to get kids (not quite children, but close) and turn their Mormon morality into a kind of uncorruptable cop mentality.

        Unfortunately, I’m not knowledgeable enough to know how to improve the training of U.S. police, except to say copy what is shown to work in other places.

        I like (but don’t know how succesful it is) the RCMP’s idea that cops go to a national academy and then can be sent anywhere in the country to serve. You often have to move and that means being an RCMP is your life, which requires a professional commitment like the military.

        You can’t (and shouldn’t) get only Mormons for all U.S. wide policing needs, but I like the idea of requiring past volunteer service as evidence of good character needed for being a cop. I’d also require a humanities and psych education of some sort to help with diversity and sensitivity training, and to enforce the importance of a moral life.

        Also, I might take the deadly weapons away from cops on the beat as it is and has been in lots of places. It might (maybe not, IMO) make being a cop more dangerous, but it would also send the cops the signal that their job is to risk their lives and NOT use deadly force. (“Your job is not to shoot anyone, and that IS a risky job.) That is asking a huge sacrifice from police, but that is the sacrifice we ask from soldiers and cops anyway.

        Anyway, none of this is sufficient, but maybe someone more knowledgeable about policing can do an OP on it.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumber in reply to Kim says:

        @blaisep

        I wouldn’t believe a cop if he told me tomorrow was Thursday.

        I have personally seen cops lie under oath.

        I will go on “Hatin’ on Authority Figures” as long as I please.

        There’s a human being inside that uniform.

        I have never seen evidence of that.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kim says:

        my grandfather was on the Louisville PD for 40 years and he told me dozens of stories about looking the other way on what he called ‘small crimes’.

        Is this an instance of the benign ignorance that Jason was writing about a few days ago? It seems to me that that as institutional thinking increasingly determines human outcomes the particular humanness of the person playing the institutional role approaches irrelevance.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kim says:

        I don’t have to believe in cops. Police officers get warped. Soldiers get warped. Lawyers get warped, physicians get warped. I’m warped. I’m a genuinely nasty human being. Ask anyone around here. I really don’t care any more and I don’t know how anyone could ever jump start me into caring again.

        I love the people in my life. So do cops. I behave professionally to most people but it’s all a sham. An elaborate set of customs and courtesies so people will cooperate with me, see the advantages in what I’m trying to do. I appeal to their ideals, their selfishness and often their own hatred.

        People don’t hate without a reason. You hate cops, understandable. But why would a cop be a badass? Why wouldn’t he treat you decently? For the same reason you hate him: we are the sum of all that has ever happened to us. If all you ever saw of humanity at work was domestic violence, slobbering drunks endangering themselves and others, burglars, addicts, gang bangers — that shit adds up. It warps people, as you’ve been warped by your experience with cops — and I’m not going to say you shouldn’t hate cops. Your reasons for hating them are as valid as your experiences.

        But think this through for a minute. Mike Dwyer has written a curious little parable here, one we all ought to examine. Somewhere along the line, that cop saw more than a car full of hoodlums. He saw kids out for a night of frog gigging, he identified with those kids.

        I’m warped. They don’t invite the consultants to the Christmas parties. I don’t make many friends any more because I end up saying goodbye to them all and it hurts. Some people shouldn’t be cops and others shouldn’t be consultants. If you’re a cop because you can exert power over others or if you’re a consultant and don’t give a shit about anything but the money, you need to get a new job. Both are lonely jobs. Nobody wants to see you turn up on their doorstep. If things are so bad that cops or consultants turn up, things are pretty fucked up.

        But as warped as I am, I understand cops. I treat them with the elaborate, dispassionate courtesy with which I treat anyone with power over me, in accordance with the way I want to be treated, the way a good cop would treat anyone he’s talking to — and it’s all a sham, a modus operandi, an entire language. I don’t kiss anyone’s ass, least of all a cop, it only makes them suspicious. They’re just doing their job. I don’t have to talk to them, I talk to the uniform. Under that uniform is a bulletproof vest. I know what it’s like to be a vulnerable meat bag. I’ve been shot at and shelled. About 79 percent of the reason any given cop is a dick is because people won’t respect his meat bag-ness, not his (as Stan Marsh from South Park) his Authori-tay. He really is a human being, though you may not believe it.Report

    • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Patrick says:

      My cousin is in the robot police and he would arrest people for driving while having semantic understanding.Report

  7. Avatar Damon says:

    @ Kazzy and @ Kim,

    Profiling works both ways. Lot’s of cops profile white guys driving around minority areas as potential drug buyers. There’s no way I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow if I drove a Mercedes into downtown Baltimore in certain areas. Odds are I’d be cruising for hookers, drugs, or both. Either way, I’d stick out like a sore thumb.Report

    • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to Damon says:

      Wait, are you being profiled for being white or for driving an expensive car around slowly in a very poor neighborhood, where drugs are often sold?

      The latter is not racial profiling.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        Reminds me of the time I took my then-new wife (maybe still fiancee) home to show her around, and wanted to drive by my grandmother’s old house. My mom warned me to be careful because “there’s a lot of black people in that neighborhood.” Driving down the main street off which grandma’s old street ran, we saw a good mix of white, black and hispanic folks. Turning down her old street we saw quite a few people sitting out on their stoops or porches because it was a nice warm day…all of them black.

        Not realizing at first that the house was no longer there, I drove slowly down the street 3 times, hanging out the window looking for it. The last time I realized the folks on their stoops were getting pretty nervous about us. “What could those two whites be looking for in our neighborhood?” So, laughing at the silliness of the whole thing, we drove off.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        Better than having guns waved at you.
        (of course, you were doing this during respectable business hours…
        whiteboys (collegekids) in black neighborhoods after midnight get a different perspective).Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        It really doesn’t matter. Both probably though. Profiling is a usefull tool to match although it’s not 100%.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Damon says:

      This actually does happen, and not infrequently, but even in such cases of profiling, the behavior of the police is usually very different from the behavior of the police in… analogous situations.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

        Decriminalizing drugs and prostitution would probably reduce unnecessary instances of blacks and whites alike getting pulled over on suspicion of being “in the wrong neighborhood in too nice a car/obviously looking for drugs or hookers”.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Chris says:

        Yea… there is a difference between, “They must be lost,” and “They must have robbed someone.”Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        I’m with you on that one.

        Before I moved to my current, bourgie, completely nondescript neighborhood full of white people so that blend in like a needle in a needle stack, it was not uncommon for the police to see me walking down the street or sitting at a bus stop and slow down to look at me. I assume most of the “beat cops” in that neighborhood knew me after a while, especially since I walked or took the bus everywhere, so they were probably just getting close enough to see that I’m someone who belongs there. I never got stopped, and I think only once in the many years I lived down there did cops ask me where I lived.

        Now, at the same time, I saw cops stop, frisk, and otherwise harass black and Hispanic men constantly in that neighborhood. So maybe the difference between being white and being black or Hispanic is that, if you’re white, cops might bother you if you when you’re in someone else’s neighborhood, whereas if you’re black or Hispanic, cops will bother you even in your own neighborhood.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Chris says:

        *faceplant*
        and how much of that is that it is considered acceptable to profile whites in a black neighborhood but not the other way around? (police == embarrassed, black guy rightfully outraged, probably not always a good combo)
        Dammit, it shouldn’t be acceptable!Report

  8. Avatar NotMe says:

    It is amazing how some folks, mainly liberals, can make any discussion into one about race and racism.Report

  9. Avatar ScarletNumber says:

    The only proper response to “What do you boys have planned for tonight?” is “None of your business, Officer”Report

    • Avatar Patrick in reply to ScarletNumber says:

      That’s quite possibly the worst advice I can imagine.Report

    • Note that the cop can smell the road sodies that had been partially consumed already, so there is already evidence of a crime, and indeed a serious one, being committed. Yes, you want to tell the cops as little as possible. But you also want to get away without being arrested. If the cop fees like he’s being fished with by you, then he’s going to be inclined to fish with you back. Maybe that trunk needs a search, and so does the passenger compartment, for some open containers, and that opens up the door to something else going wrong…

      I often tell my clients and other people that they should not tell the cops anything, ever. This actually isn’t strictly true but I give that advice knowing that it will be largely ignored. And here, using a bit of friendliness to charm his way out of a ticket (or worse) was the right thing to do for Mike’s friend. Above, there is an extensive discussion about privilege and whether privilege was invoked in this situation — but when you need the privilege and its exercise is mostly harmless, I’m not so sure it’s a bad thing to use it.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Told my kids from the get-go, if a police officer starts asking you questions, just be as polite as possible and say “My daddy told me to cooperate with police officers as much as possible, but when questions are being asked, to give him a call and [insert attorney’s name here] will come down to the police station so we can get the answers you need with a lawyer present.”Report