I'm not going to get into my overall beliefs on the concept of police in general, because that's not what this node is about. Simply put, some cops harass some people sometimes. It's unquestionable. Furthermore, In my personal experience, the majority of police officers (especially in mostly white suburban areas where there aren't black people to pick on) are deeply prejudiced against the teenage population. Here are a few first and second hand encounters with the police.
- A group of my friends was bored one night, and noticed chairs in a Long's (drug store) parking lot. They sat in the chairs and hung out and talked for a while. A passing cop car stopped and pulled into the parking lot. The cops gave them a verbal lashing and made them leave, after taking everyone's ID information.
- A small group of friends and I were perusing the dumpsters behind our local library after closing, having secured the permission of multiple librarians. We had no malicious intent, and were not creating any kind of a disturbance. We were simply interested in making use of literature that would otherwise end up in landfills. After a few minutes of rooting through the dumpster and the surrounding cardboard boxes, three cops walked up. They had emerged from two (yes, TWO) police cars in the parking lot. One of the officers proceeded to tell us that what were doing was illegal and he could take us all down the station if he wanted but instead he was just going to take down our ID info and give us a stern lecture. In the midst of subdued questioning, a friend of mine brought up a good question: "What's so wrong with what we're doing?" The officer chose to avoid the question and respond by letting my friend know how much he'd like to see him in jail. After he left, the other officer (his superior) told us that he was glad we were reading and the other officer was a bit overzealous (you think?).
- My friends and I recently got into the habit of riding around on those stupid Razor scooters and their generic brand counterparts. One night some of us went up a big hill while the rest of the crew rode around in the school parking lot at the the bottom of the hill. When we got to the bottom of the hill we saw that there were two (yes, one police car is never enough to handle harmless teenagers) cop cars pulled into the parking lot, and a cop was outside writing down our friends' info.
The pattern was beginning to become familiar, so we decided to take action. Operating under the assumption that cops are less likely to fuck with people who know their rights, we've decided to start a campaign of keeping track of badge numbers. We're telling every kid we know, "when a cop harasses you, take down his badge number." We're keeping lists of incidents, dates, officer names, and badge numbers. We haven't yet decided whether to discern between reasonable stops and those that are totally unwarranted, or whether the process will culminate in any official complaints. The desired result is that the local cops stop needlessly detaining us. Whether that is through them recognizing that we aren't just ignorant kids or via more official means (assuming a functional citizens' review board or some other method for taking official action), hopefully it will work out. At the very least, we'll get the satisfaction of knowing that we aren't just letting this happen without a word of dissent.
So while I'm on my soapbox, I urge every teenager out there to follow suit. It may not change anything, but at least you won't be giving up without a fight. If a cop harasses you, take his badge number.