I had heard several times stories about people walking along the street, minding their own business, and suddenly being approached by undercover police officers and taken as witnesses to a raid. As with many bad things that happen to other people, I foolishly though it would never happen to me.
Until last Wednesday.
A workmate and I were just one block away from work, when two middle aged and not very policeman-looking guys got out of a white pickup truck and asked us if we were from this city and more than 18 years old. Then one of them told us to show him our IDs, and I asked him if he could show me his first. I guess I did it because I had been told you shouldn't give your ID to anyone, even to the cops. It wasn't that useful anyway, because the guy was shaven in the picture and had a full manly beard in real life, and his name didn't tell me anything.
Then came what I'd expected: "Get on the truck." - The one that had asked for our IDs said - "We'll give you a certificate to show at work, and if they cause any trouble, you sue them."
They took us to the police station, which happened to be round the corner, where two other boys who had also been picked (and who at first I thought were the offenders) were waiting, and they had us there for half an hour while they got ready. I have to admit that I got a little nervous when the guys with the black masks and the long guns arrived, but then I thought that if I was going to die, at least I'd see some action. So I calmed down and kinda looked forward to it.
The neighborhood where the raid took place was run-down to say the least: the streets were unpaved and the houses were falling apart. Not that I had never been in such a place, but I remembered that a lot of people have to live there all year round, all their lives. And I felt a little stupid for complaining all the time about so many unimportant things as I do.
We arrived. I stayed inside the car and the four guys that were with me got out. I don't remember whether they knocked the door open or rang the bell. Maybe they knocked the door open and then rang the bell. The thing is, after a while they told me it was safe for me to go in, and I did so.
When I came into the house I acknowledged the arrested man, handcuffed and sitting five-sixths (way more than half) naked on a chair. From then on I tried not to look at him, partly so as not to invade his privacy (which is, I realize now, quite the opposite of what a raid is all about), but most of all because a guy's package is not my cup of tea.
We had to wait for a policewoman to arrive before proceeding, because the suspect's wife was there too, and the law says a woman has to be dealt with by another woman. Then they read the raid order, and asked for my name, birthdate and occupation out loud (at least they took my address directly from my ID). Then the guy in charge of the search and seizure procedure showed me the contents of his wallet and his pockets, gave me a plastic bag, and told me to follow him all the time, and to remember every detail.
The actual job took about three hours to complete, during which no single item in the house was left uninspected. They opened drawers and closets, checked clothes and notes, moved furniture and TVs, emptied bags and trash cans, flushed the toilet, confiscated mobile phones and money (oh, yeah, and drugs), shook footballs and toys, and turned mattresses upside-down. The only secrets we couldn't know were those in their heads.
The atmosphere wasn't that tense considering what was taking place there. The arrestee wasn't aggressive, and despite a few complaints about the clothes he was given to protect him from the cold (the first things at hand were his son's bright shorts, a towel and his wife's vest), the tightness of the handcuffs and the officer outside telling the neighbors about what was going on, he behaved well. Near the end he even made jokes.
Even though the task was really dull, the guys I had to follow were young and talked frequently, so time passed faster. When checking out the box of a Dragon Ball game one of them said he had played it a lot of times, which was sort of funny. The only things I could have done without, besides being taken unwillingly from the street, were the personal questions, considering the place we were in. Another thing that could have had been better planned was the order in which the different parts of the house were inspected, because we went to the backyard after dark, and even though they had flashlights it was really easy to tumble, and really hard to make a thorough search.
Finally they did the paperwork and we all left the house, getting through a bunch of people gathered at the door. They drove me home and thanked me, we shook hands and they disappeared.
The next day I took a different route to work - the prospect of being taken again is not very encouraging. It's kinda like the feeling you get after being mugged, but less frightening and more rewarding.