Book Trailer For Madam President

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Our Police State

If you have ever been pulled over by the police at night then you know that sickening feeling of dread and guilt if not outright fear. Yet, most of us, have done nothing wrong, but it is the lights swirling behind, the spot in the mirror, the police approaching from both sides on an angle in case you have a gun, that unnerves if not outright frightens us into a state of sweaty palms and a pounding heart. The modern police want this response--they want you to be robbed of your sense of personal safety and they want submission. The police state is all about fear.

We have protections, but out on the side of the road your rights can vanish in a second. It is really just you and the police and how you act depends on weather or not you get a ticket or take a ride in handcuffs to the police station. If you are subservient and polite then there is a fair chance you might get away with a warning. But if the police have determined you are not being respectful or if they have a preconceived notion of your guilt--then you are entering the hell of the iron boot that is the police state. African Americans and other minorities know this all too well.
I was pulled over the other night for having a headlight out. I told the officer I had tried to replace it before and it kept going out. He asked where I had come from. He asked what I did for a living. Suddenly, I was trying to explain, trying to justify my life to this man in a uniform. Why? Because we were at a crossroads. If he sniffed something then we were going to go into a bad place. If I answered the questions correctly then I could be on my way.

He asked if I had been drinking and I told him I had a beer a couple hours before. He then asked me to get out of the car. Intimidation is a dead end street. The best way to intimidate someone is to give them two options that lead to the same place. This officer said he didn't like people who lied to him. If I was lying then we were going to take a trip down to the station. If I told him the truth then I could avoid being arrested. So...how many beers did I really drink? I told him again that I only had only one. He shook his head. "That is not the answer I am looking for."
I stared at him and suddenly, I realized I would have to lie about how much I was drinking. Not lying to tell him I didn't drink much, but lying to tell him I drank enough to satisfy his suspicions. He said if I had to take the road side sobriety test and didn't pass then it was a DUI and handcuffs. I knew then there was no way I would pass the subjective test of different exercises. Not because I wasn't sober, but because he had determined that I should not pass.
So I lied and told him I had two beers. He asked if I smoked anything or did I take any drugs. No. Come on he said. I told you I don't want you to lie to me. I told him the beers were large Weiss beers. This seemed to satisfy him. He asked if I could call someone to give me a ride home. I called my wife and then he became very friendly and gave me a ticket for seventy five dollars for my headlight. I left my car on the side of the road.
The point here is this: it did not matter what I said. The cop had become judge, jury, and executioner in that moment and it was up to him what my fate would be. I had to lie to not be arrested. Sure I could have gotten a lawyer and paid thousands of dollars to prove I didn't drink more than one beer, but I would be the one out the money and time. A DUI can cost up to ten grand and even then your license can be suspended. So really, it came down to his decision over my fate. I found myself in the ludicrous position of having to lie that I drank more than I really did to satisfy his ego that he was right and I was wrong.
So when you get pulled over next time be ready. Because you are really on trial right there and you better have the right answers. Even if you have to lie.

Books by William Hazelgrove