On Friday, April 29, I sat in my Anthropology 3 lecture, watching as the professor set up his computer, loading his power point presentation, when I felt an unexpected tap on my shoulder. I turned to see an officer of the I.V. Foot Patrol standing behind me, demanding my presence outside. I followed him out and he gave me orders to remove my wallet and sit down. I obeyed and then queried as to the meaning of this. In the meantime one of the TAs walked up, also curious as to the reason for my mysterious apprehension. The officer, however, told the TA that he was conducting an investigation, and that he should re-enter the classroom to fetch my personals.
“Investigation?” I asked.
He looked at me, but didn’t answer. I could hear him spelling my name into his radio. Finally, he spoke.
“Ever been arrested?”
“What is this all about? What did I even do?”
“Just answer the question.”
I got a DUI six years ago, and told him.
“Do you know why you’re sitting out here?”
“No. I don’t.”
“Where were you about 10 minutes ago?”
I thought back.
“I was sitting in front of Embarcadero Hall, reading the story I wrote for today’s issue of the Daily Nexus. I was curious as to how much it was edited.”
He looked incredulously at me, and asked which article was the one I wrote.
” The one about the queer wedding today,” I replied.
In the meantime the TA had returned with my possessions – a skateboard and a backpack. Again he queried the officer as to my crime.
“About 15 minutes ago you were behind Embarcadero Hall riding your skateboard. I yelled at you and you took off.”
“Bullshit,” I said. “I sat right on that bench out front and read my story. Then I came into class and sat in the same seat I sit in every lecture. I never even went out back.”
“If there’s one thing cops hate, it’s people who run and people who are liars,” his manner was becoming threatening. The TA asked me who my section TA was and he ran to get her. She was to confirm my enrollment in the class.
“Yes, Jerred’s in my section,” she offered in defense of me. She gave me a quizzical glance. I shook my head in complete befuddlement. The officer looked at me.
“I know it was you. It’s not just coincidence that the man I saw out back was also wearing a beanie.”
“Well,” I answered, “coincidences do happen, and this is one”.
“Right,” he said. In the class I could hear the film. This cop was robbing me of my education, holding me on charges that were completely unfounded. Like I was the only person in I.V. with a beanie. His radio crackled and he said something back into it.
“Get up,” he told me. “I’m 95 percent sure that was you out there, and if I had any more evidence I’d arrest you right now.”
Jesus, I thought. This guy is serious.
“Well it wasn’t me. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going back to class to begin watching the movie you’ve already caused me to miss half of. Good day.”
This interaction with the IVFP highlights a major inequality in the public’s relationship with the law: our word against theirs. This guy had it set in his mind that I was the one out back. I was not though, and he didn’t want to believe I was right. I was treated like a lying child. My guess is that this officer caught a glimpse of a man wearing a beanie on a skateboard. He then came into Embarcadero Hall and looked for the first man he could find who was also wearing a beanie.
That was me.
Once he saw that I had a skateboard as well, he knew he had his man. When an authority figure knows it’s right, things can get ugly. Yes, I may have fit the description, but that by no means gives the officer the right to assume my guilt. This man wanted me arrested – he was hungry for a prisoner. He fairly reeked of pompous shit, and he wasn’t taking no for an answer. Fortunately, he was called off. Maybe he had another lead, maybe the dangerous criminal skateboarder was spotted elsewhere – who knows? I guess the moral of the story is to not let police intimidate you. Stand up for yourself, and don’t fall prey to their scare tactics. Once fear is on their side, and they have the upper hand.
Jerred Jolin is a Daily Nexus reporter.