Beth Mann's Blog

Beth's Urban Tales of Wonder and Decay

Beth Mann

Beth Mann
Long Beach Island, New Jersey, USA
November 11
Hot Buttered Media
I'm a writer and creative consultant. I have years of experimental comedy and strange theater under my belt. I surf. I cook. I love wine, men and song. And puppies. I effin' love puppies.

MAY 23, 2009 8:30AM

The Cops Shots (or Tales of Self-Pornography)

Rate: 38 Flag

(Dakini Dancer, dance on.)

Perhaps you will recall this photo. It's from a post a few weeks ago, entitled "I Miss Shoplifting":

This playful photo almost lead to my arrest. The threat of arrest is good fun, akin to swallowing a handful of straight pins. I suggest being surrounded by angry policemen at least once in your life. Its good for your constitution. I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by cops several times in my life, so my constitution is rock solid. Well, sort of.

I wanted a photo for my blog entry about breaking the law. Why not shoot some shots in front of the local police station, methinks. I toss my camera equipment in my truck and drive a few blocks to the nearby precinct. Setting the camera on its tripod, I set my timer and began posing quickly.

I realize my jacket was bunching up in the back, so I take another chance; I unbutton the coat a little (black bra underneath for what its worth.) Since my coat is open a bit more, I decided to take a few more risqué shots.

Why do I take risque shots of myself, I wonder. Then I quickly counter with a "Why the hell not?" I can make some guesses as to why I do. I love sex. I love sexy. I don't have much of the former currently so I have fun with the latter. I think its called compensation.

Besides, I can do whatever I want. No one to answer to. Its one of the perks of being single and kid-free. If people think I'm some narcissistic self-pornographer, then gee, they just might be right. Next week, I'll wear a burlap sack and stick my head in a bucket of wet cement in deep repentance...oh, whilst knitting.

After about 5 minutes into my police car porn shoot, I hear the precinct door slam open and three cops exit the station quickly: one in plain clothes, the other two in uniform. Here’s what I look like when I see them:

Don’t I look kinda sweet? Unsuspecting? Slightly embarrassed but certainly not afraid. This smile will only last a millisecond longer.

The plain clothes cop descends on me like an angry dog. My coat isn't buttoned all the way up and I desperately struggled to fix it. But the buttons won't go in easily and my hands begin shaking. The plain clothes cop gets all up in my grill (that's street lingo for in my face, thank you.)

“What the hell do you think you’re doing, miss?”

“I’m a writer. I'm shooting for my blog. I'm writing about [nervous laughter] breaking the law and how I used to do it more in the past and I miss it and…

“You don’t toy with cop cars, ma’am. Why is your coat open? Are you shooting pornographic shots in front of the cop car?”

“NO! No…I mean, not the traditional kind. It’s for my blog…”

“I don’t know what the fuck a blog is. Open your jacket!”

“Absolutely not.”

My god, was I going to be arrested for pornography? Self-pornography at that?! Is it a crime even? I don't know. Why am I doing this anyway? Have I become a pervert? A weirdo? Are playgrounds and vans in my future? Just how bored have I become?

By this point, I am extremely nervous, realizing that this situation is suddenly getting quite serious.

“Show me your I.D. right now”

“I don’t have it. It’s at home”

I look over at the two cops standing off to the side, both of whom I know. Why aren't they helping me? Why aren't they saying something to this guy, confirming my identity?

“I live here. I’m a writer. I needed some shots in front of a cop car. Honestly, I didn’t think it would be a big deal. Ron!”

Ron, my cop acquaintance, off in the distance, shrugs his shoulders as if to say, “What can I do? He’s my superior.”

After much explanation, the angry cop, in the blink of an eye, switches his trajectory.

“Sure. Okay, go ahead. Finish shooting. Hey, what kind of camera is that anyway? Is that an SLR?”

Oh, it's time for fucking small talk now? Well, why the hell not? Let's just talk about my Aunt Mary Lou's famous potato salad recipe next, shall we?

“Um…no. It’s a consumer…point and…shit. I don’t know.” My hands are still shaking but my jacket is finally buttoned.

“Yeah, I want to buy something like that for my daughter. How many pixels?”

“Um...I haven’t a clue.”

“Well, carry on then.”

“No thanks.”

Yeah, like I'm going to shoot more photos after that! As I walk toward my car, I begin reviewing my shots, not thrilled with any. Over-exposed, midday light. Oh well. Keep walking, Beth. Drinking early may be an option today.

Then I think about my blog post: how I wax nostalgic about law-breaking, how being a bit of a badass is in my nature and that's a good thing. I begin to wonder if my badass posturing karmically brought this trouble on, which seems sad. Was this a case of hubris and cosmic payback? I sure didn't seem like much of a badass, that's for sure. Shaking, stuttering, scared and very unsure what to do.

It was then I turned around and said:

“Okay, I’ll continue shooting. These shots aren’t what I want.”

“No problem.”

They walk back inside, chatting, easy like a Sunday morning. (My friend who works with cops explains to me that their aggro nature is second nature to them. It can be turned on and off like a light-switch, without all that post-adrenaline jitters that the rest of us feel.)

So that was as much badassness I could muster in that moment: to continue shooting in the face of a possible arrest and angry interrogation, even though my knees were shaking and my skin was white clammy.

Here's my last shot of the day, looking a tad different:

And now for the boring but helpful informational part of my post. If there are any corrections or additions, please feel free to add. I'm not an expert in this arena, by any means:

If you are ever in a difficult situation with the police, know these points (and remember, this could be you, no matter how law abiding you are. As Socrates once put it, "Shit happens."):

  • Do not, under any circumstances, physically resist the police. To do so justifies their use of force to compel you.
  • Law Enforcement Officers have the right to stop and question any citizen, whenever a felony has been committed and they have reasonable grounds to believe that the citizen may have been involved in that felony. If this should happen to you, your first reaction should be to cooperate fully with the officer. This is not harassment, unless the questions asked do not or cannot pertain to any real crime (“Open your jacket!”)
  • At your first opportunity, when you suspect that you are being harassed, you should ask, "Am I under arrest?" This forces the officer to inform you of your official status. If he or she does not formally arrest you at that point, then you are still a "private citizen" with all the civil rights thereof. You do not have to answer any questions or allow the officer into any premises for which he or she does not have a warrant.
  • Ask the officer, "What crime is under investigation?" The answer to this question should allow you to decide whether the officer’s questions are legitimate.
  • You should not volunteer information about any persons or incidents, no matter what is promised to you. Anything you say can be used against you and others, and could be used out of context to mean something you had never intended. You will not clear yourself by naming others or describing events. It is best not to say a word until you have legal representation present.
  • Sometimes you could be subjected to bigotry, insult or epithets from police who feel that intimidation will get them results from reticent subjects. Do not go into shock, do not lose your temper and do not respond in kind; it will could only make matters worse. If you can remember exact words and details, write them down at the first opportunity and talk with a lawyer about whether you have adequate grounds for a civil rights complaint.
  • The police may take you to the station to talk. If this happens, ask to have an attorney present. Then shut up. Don't say anything until the lawyer is there with you and speak only if your lawyer advises it.
  • If you are in a public place with a multitude of neutral witnesses, like an event in a public park, you can speak a little more freely. Just remember, witnesses can work against you, too, so watch what you say and watch your temper.
  • If you are at another's home when the police come in, remain quiet. Avoid incriminating your host. You really don't know what grounds are being used for the raid and you probably don't know they are innocent; so avoid incriminating yourself or others. In this case, the time to act is afterward; see an attorney.
  • If in your own home and the police ask permission to come in, the answer should be "No." You should step outside and talk with them. Offer to go with them to the police station. You don't have to let them in without a warrant. If you are asked, "What do you have to hide?" simply ask "What kind of question is that?" If they are not asking to come in, but breaking down your door, give way and let them in. Don't fight them or make any insults or threats, but remember all that is said and done, make notes, and get a lawyer.
  • If the officer looks frightened or angry, take extreme precautions not to do anything to startle him or make him think you are about to do him harm. This is a time of maximum risk to yourself, so be very polite and don't do anything that may be interpreted as a threat.

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I really love that third photo of you with the bright smile.

The advice is really good. Cops are human and subject to all our own foibles. Most people don't realize that photography is legal in this country. The link that follows describes a recent order given to the police in NYC about that, that it is legal for photographer and videographers to take photos of just about anything.

Great read, Beth. Glad it all ended well.
This is a great story and great advice for interacting with the police.
Beth, you're our resident not-so-bad but oh-so-much-fun girl. Love the way you play right up to the edge.
I can see why "three" cops came running. I'm surprised the whole department didn't come out. Those are some great pics. Great information and that was funny.
I can't stop looking at that second picture.
And if you are going to take sexy photos next to their car, invite them to watch.

Seriously, Beth, good advice. Fear is anger in disguise. If one is frightened during an incident with authority, it is remarkably easy to cover that fear with belligerence. This sets off all their alarms and may result in your being detained while they figure out if they need to worry about you or not. Staying calm tells them they don't have to worry abut you. As you point out, asking questions deflects confrontation. "What crime is being investigated?" is better than "I know my rights, motherfucker."
One smallish pretty woman. Three police officers. I'm surprised they didn't temporarily cuff you. Even though you did not one blessed thing wrong. Good advice. Dealing with many police officers is like dealing with loaded, sweating (literally) dynamite. They're somewhat dangerous in their aggressive state. The questions you talk about asking force them to defuse a bit and look at the situation more like a regular citizen and less like a cop.
Fun AND informational. Don't we have some police around here? I believe I've seen a post or two . . . I hope you get a response from that quarter. HB

That third photo is just terrific...what a smile. I love the last one as well.

Your advice is spot on. I happen to have a soft spot for cops, since my youngest brother was one, and I knew that under all that hard-ass exterior, there lived a fair and careful guy---but all cops are NOT alike in the dark.

And, you are so right that an unexpected encounter can happen to anyone. The hubby and I were pulled over last Friday at a sobriety check-point. Luckily, hubby had not had so much as a drop of wine, but many other cars dotted the roadside, drivers out and reciting the alphabet backwards----something I could never do, sober or drunk.

As always, I love your bad-ass, but sweet & smart Jersey girl ways.
It’s a consumer…point and…shit. Ahh haa that's a great one . Funny thats what I have.
The picture of your smile is drop dead gorgeous, you know. Wow.

Great info, and your scary story was perfectly told. I love the way you handled yourself. I mean..I am really impressed with that. What presence of mind!
Just for the record, I am completely pro-narcissistic-self-pornography.

Also, those rules at the end apply to mad dogs as well.
Just got to the third picture. Stuck again.
Great story and just the sort of thing I would do to tell my story.

Love the photos, glad you only had a brush with nastiness this time.

Rated for gumption.
Funny story. If that had been me, they would have gone the tazer route.
Mr. Mustard, I'm so curious. Why would they have gone down the tazer route with you. I want to learn!

Karen: your orangatun comment made me laugh heartily.

Hey everybody else! It's always nice to hear from you all. It's been a lousy week and I forget how this interaction helps.
Spectacular piece....sweet shots, great account and solid advice. Edutainment with a sexy drinking a martini and learning a new vocabulary word at the same time.
Beth, so how do you know those 2 cops, hmmm? ;)

I loved the "consumer point and...shit" line as well.

Great advice. Unfortunately, people still get beaten or killed by cops when they don't follow it. Smart parents tell their kids (esp boys) these same rules, as almost all kids will encounter cops at some point, at a traffic stop while driving if nothing else.
Just a rule of thumb, it's probably better to ask permission to take a photo, it saves a lot of hassle although I always try to sneak a candid shot of interesting people.

And you should have asked them to do a handcuff shot, I bet your two uniformed friends would have gladly participated. Most police officers have to do the tough guy routine so it becomes an automatic response but once they realize you aren't going to be a "I know my rights!" type they loosen up a bit, I think I have talked my way out of 5 tickets now simply because I had a good attitude.
" I think its called compensation."
What larks!
Man, this is awesome, Mann. In my next life I want to be you. I was always the Good Girl, only a badass in private. Hmm, pretty bad, come to think of it.

You do realize Duane is still here, right?
Damn! When I got to the part where that cop said "open your jacket" I was all ready to cast Christopher Meloni in my personal triple XXX fantasy (*sigh* Elliot can be so humorless...why is it my little quips are never enough to stop him from"arresting" me.) So sad for you that this was reality.
This is from a KY perspective. There are a lot of cops who think they're the "real" badasses and are eager to remind people of that. Of course, it's not every cop who thinks this way. I know a couple of nice guy cops here in my college town. But there are enough badasses that any encounter with the police entails a risk of abuse and arbitrary imprisonment. That's especially the case for targeted populations like African-Americans, poor people, gays, and college students. A couple of my students were roughed up last fall.

The risk of abuse has grown with the popularity of tasers as a recreational torture device for the cops.

The advice to be compliant with the police is correct, but no one should fool themselves that compliance necessarily exempts them from abuse.
Okay - first - gorgeous, and I am impressed and intimidated by your brass ovaries. Second - excellent advice - thank you - one never knows when it might come in handy. Third - well-written. Damn, girl, if I could rate thrice, I would!
You have such a great smile. Beauty and brains - what a combo.
Hell, I get sweaty palms when I see red lights in my rear-view mirror.

Digby has a lot to say on the police and the over-use of tasers, even when the victim *hasn't* committed a crime and *isn't* physically resisting. (One thought about why the fairly-recent police shooting in Oakland occurred was that the officer thought he held his taser instead of a guy.)
Hell, I get sweaty palms when I see red lights in my rear-view mirror.

Digby has a lot to say on the police and the over-use of tasers, even when the victim *hasn't* committed a crime and *isn't* physically resisting. (One thought about why the fairly-recent police shooting in Oakland occurred was that the officer thought he held his taser instead of a guy.)
Sorry about the double-post; no idea what happened.

Is it just me, or does Beth in the "I've just been spotted by the guys in the station" shot look something like Mary Stuart Masterson in "Fried Green Tomatoes"?

Or maybe I've been watching too many movies lately.
I loved reading this. I agree, everyone should be surrounded by cops at least once in their lives.

You thought made me laugh,
"My god, was I going to be arrested for pornography? Self-pornography at that?! Is it a crime even? I don't know. Why am I doing this anyway? Have I become a pervert? A weirdo? Are playgrounds and vans in my future? Just how bored have I become? "

I think I have, in the past violated almost all of the do's and don't's of how to handle police. Now I speak calmly and politely and they usually are polite back.
Great Read!
Great writing and pix as always. As one bad ass to another, my motto always has been and always will be: Fight the power.

I also find it useful to know the ranks of cops, and address them as such. For example, I ask for names and then say things like: Officer blah blah, am I under arrest? Sgt, what is the charge? Etcetera. Since I always keep a notebook and pen hand, I sometimes take notes. Works every time.

Oh, and I keep smiling no matter what. I was picked up at a party with a dozen other people once and managed to conceal an oz of hash in my shoe. They never did find it and let me go in an hour. Ah, the good old days of living dangerously.
See, this is where I think you got in a little trouble, “I’m a writer. I'm shooting for my blog. I'm writing about [nervous laughter] breaking the law and how I used to do it more in the past and I miss it and…"

That's perfect. "I really miss breaking the law and I want to write more and more about it!" I would totally do that, too. I call it my bad tendency to over-share.

I'm glad I have this story in my memory bank. (And really glad it's your story, not mine.)
fluffy puppies???
Emma, that's some solid advice. Because, frankly, I DIDN'T handle it well. WakingUpSlowly had a point: I was oversharing and I didn't really need to defend myself so much. I wasn't doing anything wrong!

The next time (oh let's DO hope there's a next time - just kidding God!), I want to be more in control and make sure the balance of power is there. Sometimes you just need a game plan, like yours.
Thank you for checking in and as usual, your comments make this process so much more worthy. The comments are an incentive to write more - that's a pretty good thing, huh?

Thanks, Cindy. Your comment made me well up a bit.

I wish I lived a fascinating life. I find it trying for the most part. And lacking in soft, gentle things. I find myself tired and angry most of the time. (Sorry - sounding pretty pessimistic I know but long week, money worries, new neighbors, a random headache, a deep need to escape, a lack of options, world weariness, trapped, stuck, blah and etc. ha...)

Anyway, thank you.

Fight the power! But if it doesn't seem to be working, flirt!

Another bad-girl's commentary: every time I've been arrested, I always remembered to say clearly in a non-threatening voice, "hey guys, I'm not resisting arrest here, take it easy."
You belong in our own TV show.
That should have read "YOUR own TV show". Or maybe that was a Freudian slip? You and I could give Lucy and Ethel or Thelma and Louise a run for their money.
Beth, the advice about dealing with the police is very valuable.
They simply do not have time to deal with any impertinent actions or details in a situation. They have to deal with socially challenged types all the time.......making it nearly impossible for them to keep from developing an attitude.
Beth, I loved this and I love how open you are about sharing your worries, then you go out and get into more mischief. You remind me of a cheeky little urchin whistling in a dark alley.
What a great read. Very VERY funny but then with great advice at the end.

I am surprised they did not try to arrest you.
Very funny post, Beth, but what kind of life have you lived to catalog this comprehensive advisory on dealing with your local sheriff? ;) I've resolved to read all Beth's posts hitherto and henceforth...
Those are super sexy photos Beth. Great story.
Long story short, the judge said to me "I'll let you go with a fine for 70 in a 65 if you tell me how fast you were really going." Taking him at his word I said, "Ok. I was going around 125, maybe 130." The judge, incensed, snorted back "Why the hell were you going so fast on my highway for?" to which I replied "I was drunk, I didn't know what I was doing."

Even the bailiff had to conceal a smirk. Human, after all :)

Excellent post, Beth. And damn if that's not the hottest picture of you.
Those are some beautiful photos - my favorites are the last two. I admire your spirit in taking them as well as the calm smoothness you handled the cops.

The advice you gave is spot on as well. Bravo!
I have a question about this: If you can remember exact words and details, write them down at the first opportunity

I've always thought that if cops were abusing or just unfair to me or someone I was with that I would just start taking notes as it was happening. Or, better yet, shooting video. I'm sure how they would react--tell me to stop. But do you happen to know if they have the right to tell someone to stop taking notes as they're being questioned? I'm currently doing some observations for an ethnography and have come to value the urgent quality of field notes. Any idea if taking notes or shooting video or taking pictures while being questioned or arrested is OK?
Lainey, that's a good question and I'm not sure what the answer is but I could make some educated guesses. BBD showed me this link re: shooting video and photography:

I agree with you. Active note taking would certainly ensure a badge number or a small detail that could easily be overlooked or forgotten in the chaos of it all.

In my case, I do have a feeling that if I'd tried to turn the tables and start shooting them or taking notes, I would have been arrested on some random charge (I didn't have I.D., for instance, and was parked across the street. I only live 2 blocks away.)

Recently, a friend of mine was pulled over in Texas for going over 3 mph over the speed limit. They searched her car illegally and took all of the cash in her pocketbook. Apparently this is rather commonplace in a certain area.

Yes, she could sue. She could do a million things and she probably will...but that point is, it happened. She, like I, was shocked into submission. I will try to never let that happen again..but it's hard when a big guy is yelling inches from your face and he has the power to arrest you.