Right now in NYC there are protests going on downtown on Wall Street. These are peaceful gatherings to protest the influence corporations have on our government. There have been several documented instances of police brutality and abuse, which is inexcusable behavior in a country where free speech is allowed.
Lawrence O’Donnell has been highlighting these abuses on his nightly show on MSNBC and because of this and the fact that people have captured abuse by law enforcement officials on camera, finally the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau will be investigating these instances (in particular a pepper spraying incident).
The vast majority of police officers in this country are honorable public servants who protect the citizens in their communities, but every now and then one of them turns out to be a bad apple—power hungry and inclined to abuse their position. I had an experience with a couple bad cops in December of 1999. I want to tell my story because the abuse I suffered could happen to anyone, and I want people to know they can and should fight back.
I was so upset, that I wrote the Chief of Police, the Judge Executive,and all three County Commissioners of Covington, Kentucky, as well as the State Attorney General. Here is the letter:
Dear Colonel Bosse:
At approximately 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning, December 12, 1999, I had an encounter with Officer M. J. * (badge #016_*) and his partner. I hope these names and numbers are correct—I cannot read them very well on the citation (of which I’ve enclosed a copy). Officer J cited me for “reckless driving”. This citation I must take issue with because I feel it is a flagrant abuse of police power.
The following is what occurred between myself and the officers: I had pulled away from the curb after allowing five cars to pass so that I could proceed west on Robbins. I continued along with the other five vehicles, all of which were approaching the intersection (Robbins and Madison) and turning north (right) onto Madison. We had a green light. Officer J was heading east on Robbins and attempting to turn north (left for him) onto Madison. I did see the officer as he approached the intersection, but I assumed that Kentucky law was the same as Ohio and that vehicles turning left at an intersection must yield the right of way to either vehicles that are going straight or turning right.
I do not know what possessed Officer J to continue his left turn. Both of our vehicles were moving at a slow rate of speed, so I proceeded into the intersection because I assumed that the officer would yield the right of way to oncoming traffic. He did not.
The officer did not have the siren on to indicate he needed me to yield to him (if that is in fact what he needed, which obviously it was not because he had plenty of time to stop and harass me). He said that I caused him to have to go into the lane of oncoming traffic (which was non-existent at that hour) and also claims that there was a near collision between our vehicles. There was no near collision. The lack of traffic and the slow rate of speed gave both vehicles ample time and space to avoid any type of collision. Had I been going straight, he probably still would have pulled out in front of me.
Are policemen not subject to the same traffic laws as the rest of us? I feel that for some reason he decided he was going to teach me a lesson. (He picked a fight with the wrong woman.) What I want to know is why he felt compelled to pull out in front of me? I posed this question to him and he gave no response. Instead he replied, “ Oh, since you saw me, I’m going to cite you for reckless endangerment.”
He states that because I saw him start to turn in front of me and didn’t yield him the right of way, that I was endangering him. Well, in my opinion, he was endangering me by pulling out in front of me. I am so appalled by this entire situation.
I have the utmost respect for police officers, who put their lives on the line for us every day, but when a situation like this happens (and more often we hears stories of policemen abusing their power) it makes people lose faith and trust in law enforcement officials. Officer J could not even look me in the eyes as he was giving me this lame explanation as to why I was receiving this ticket. He told me: “well, you can refute it in court.” To which I responded adamantly, “ Oh, officer, I will see you in court!”
I am not a “reckless driver” and my 17-years driving record demonstrates that—it is impeccable. Please feel free to check with the states of Indiana, Ohio and Georgia. If I deserved this ticket, I would pay it immediately. However, this is a grossly blatant power play by Officer J. It is unfortunate that I have no witnesses and it is my word against these two officers, but I feel I was unfairly cited—most likely from a man with a fragile ego. This entire situation is so wrong.
I am sure that these officers will not even receive so much as a slap on the wrist for this incident. However, I feel that this should be made part of their records in case someone else encounters this type of injustice with them and takes time to report it. You may just see a recurring pattern of behavior. Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I thought you should be made aware of this situation.
In early January 2000, I showed up in the Covington court to dispute my case. I didn’t care if I lost; I was going to fight it. The cop did not show up (coward). I stated my case and it was dropped. (Although I must admit the judge was pretty dense as well; I’ll not go into the details, but I was less than impressed with him.)
I was so relieved to win. It made me realize more than ever that we must fight against that which we feel is unjust. It takes a lot—and I mean a lot—for me to fight back or complain about something, but my track record winning those fights is 100%. The moral of my story: where you see injustice, fight back!
* Name and badge number changed