Police: Predators or Peacekeepers?

Right now in America, I think there are essentially two different views of police.

I don't mean to say that all people think either this way or that way, but they represent two polarized sides in a spectrum of thoughts.

There's the side of the spectrum that sees the police as predators.

There's the side of the spectrum that sees the police as peacekeepers.

So the battling views are:  police as predators vs. police as peacekeepers.

I understand views on the spectrum, but usually because on the internet, I tend to find myself around people who unquestionably believe in the police as peacekeepers, I like to challenge what I think is the lack of a critical eye.

Some of my more radical friends like to think we could do without the police. I'm not quite there, but I understand that they do not like the history of law enforcement in this country, nor how normalized bad behavior has seemingly become. 

Another reason I'm not with my more radical friends is because I'd like to think the culture of the institution of policing/law enforcement in America could become something better, divorcing from its history.

I think that "becoming better" would be possible if there were more of a focus on prioritizing education and mediation in all the local law enforcement agencies, especially those with majority white police officers presiding over largely populations of color.

That means, police approach you with the idea that you're a human being, and not as someone who's guilty simply for existing.  And to be fair, for the most part as far as LAPD and LA County Sherriff's Departments go, they have.  I'm not sure about other agencies in LA County.

Story #1:  The Redondo Beach Cop Who Made Me Nervous

I just wanted to go straight and go home.  I didn't feel like taking small streets around or whatever.  I wanted the straight shot along Artesia Blvd that becomes Redondo Beach and eventually Compton Boulevard that would take me home. 

It was a Friday night, around 9:30 PM in Redondo Beach.  I had just come from doing a job at Hermosa Beach for my company and was heading Eastward, home in Compton. 

Traffic was backed up for a good mile and a half.  There was a large sign in construction orange colors with cones warning drivers that there was a DUI checkpoint being conducted by Redondo Beach Police.   A bunch of white cops.

A little past that sign was a smaller street that a sizable amount of drivers turned into.  I think you could actually avoid this DUI checkpoint.  That means, you could choose not to go through it, by turning off into a little street, or so it appeared.

Majority stayed the course.

I decided that I had like the majority had no desire to do any turning, and just wanted to go straight.

I had done nothing wrong, and had nothing to worry about right?

I'd waited about 20 minutes before I'd finally reached the point where the first cop would wave us through.

One cop took a look and waved me through.  Or so I thought.

I guess I was supposed to stop for the next cop?  [sarcasm]Duh!!!!! How was that not obvious, especially when one of them waved you forward and at the end of all these cones there is no stop sign.  The only people who stopped or made sure were probably people who did do something wrong, and were aching to admit their guilt.[/sarcasm]

I stopped but not before the cop said, "Stop stop stop stop!!!!!  What are you doing?," said the middle-aged white cop.

"I thought I could go through."

"Don't you see the Stop sign?"

(Looking intently for Stop sign;  none in sight)  "They were waving me through."

He asked for my license, which I struggled to produced.  Having just seen Straight Outta Compton, I was wondering what he would think once he saw my address.

I felt nervous now giving this cop a reason to question me. 

"Where'd you come from?"

I tried with all my mind might to remember --- all I could remember was that it was 10th Street.

"Have you had anything to drink tonight?"

"Nope."  As soon as this left my mouth and I stared right at the questioning officer, I knew this wasn't enough.  Even I thought I sounded suspicious.  Either that, or the way the cop questioned me and or his distrust of me was so dense that I felt that anything I could say was not going to get anywhere.

All I know is that I was just nervous even though I had not done anything.

He told me to follow his pen with my eyes.

I did this for a good 10 seconds.  

I stared with the might of my life as he moved his pen around.  I couldn't tell what he was trying to do.  It just seemed like he was just trying to get me on something.

The whole time I was just wondering, why the hell would a drunk person wait 20 minutes in line for a gangload of cops, when they could just turn into a little street?

Story #2:  On-Job Harrassment

For basically most of my jobs with my company, I am outside and in the public eye for several hours at time, anywhere from 1-4 hours at once.

Again I do various things as a traffic surveyor.  Sometimes its counting cars at an intersection.  Sometimes its taking GPS points of a sign.  Sometimes its tracking the movement of cars in a parking lot.

I am always having to explain myself, half the time to the public, half the time to some representative of law enforcement.  I've become used to explaining myself.

I'd say that 95-99% of cops have been standard, non-assholes to me, some even cool.  I've been able to talk to LA County Sherriffs at 2 AM about the GPS work I was doing.  I've been able to calm LBPD down about what I've been doing.

But the few times where cops have given me a hard time, they've given me a hard time.

Nowhere was it worse than during a job counting the traffic going through and from the LA County Jail AKA (Twin Towers Correctional Facility) right on Bauchet Street.  It's a small four lane street with lots of pedestrian as well as car traffic.  Lots of ordinary people, nurses, chefs, maintenance workers.  Lots and lots of cops, plain clothes, dressed up, passing me by.

I have my beach chair, my ID badge (which at the time consisted of the company card), my backpack (which had snacks and my laptop, just in case things got slow) and my counting board, which to the uninitiated looks like a 1980s handheld gaming console.

On this day, I was observing the activity of an intersection along with 2 driveways.  I decided that the best observation spot of traffic coming in and out would be across the street from these driveways.  My counting started at 5:30 AM and I was to keep counting until 10AM.

Things were going smoothly until a big rig decided that they would pull up right in front of me and park.  The asshole obstructed my view, leaving me looking under, walking around to make sure I've counted cars correctly.  It looks like I'm dodging, bobbing, and weaving like Money Mayweather himself.

At around 7:10 with the sunlight peaking out, a Sherriff's department car rolls up behind the stupid ass truck. 

I know where this is going.

Traffic is also constant.  And so I just keep Money Mayweathering and counting, until the cops approach me.  A black and an Asian-American cop.  I think for a split second, "oh, my people!"

But then I think of Ice Cube's line, "black police showing out for the white cop," and...this is what happened.

"What are you doing?"

"Counting cars, bitch," I say.  Though, I leave out the "bitch" part.

"What for?"

"To survey traffic.  Sometimes it's for the city."

"Who are you working for?"

"I don't know, I don't know who our client is"

"What is your company?"

I give out the name.

"Can I speak to your boss?

I'm still Money Mayweathering and counting.  I'm walking around, bobbing and weaving a lot.  Traffic is a lot more dense now that these assholes are bothering me.  Of course.

"Can we search your backpack?"

No, I'll get my phone myself.  Money Mayweathering and counting.

I'm fumbling for my phone, as its not in my pocket and located somewhere in my backpack.  The two assholes keep their eyes planted on me as I go towards my backpack.  I rifle through the backpack in frantic search for my phone while I'm Mayweathering and counting.  Incidentally I'm surprised they even let me go to my backpack myself.

Perhaps noticing that I'm frantically doing work while trying to accommodate their requests, one of them remarks "It's OK if you miss a few," said one of the oinksters who do not play any role in my employment status or my paycheck.

I take my chair and backpack and place in front of the cop car and the cops so I have all my stuff with me.  Still Money Mayweathering and counting.

Still Money Mayweathering and counting, I locate the phone number not of my immediate manager but of a manager who is away.  I hand it off to the black cop and he chops it up with that manager for about 10 minutes.  I hear demands for names and companies as he blurts them out.

Still Money Mayweathering and counting.  The black cop hangs up.

Slowly realizing that there's actually nothing going on here, the Asian-American cop preps his parting shots telling me where to stand and not stand.  "You shouldn't be here hiding behind this truck" and "stop pointing that thing [counting board] at people."

And this is why sometimes when people say FTP, I don't think immediately of Filezilla.

I don't have any examples of police playing "peacekeepers" other than the times I've seen them at community meetings or various events whether its a youth meet up in Long Beach or community meeting in MacArthur Park.

If I were to be intellectually honest, I know that it's not all cops acting like assholes.  They are not a separate species.  In the end they are people doing their jobs, dealing with a lot of uncertainty.  I think the way we have designed our justice system rife with quotas, they are prone to making false hits, casting wider nets which ends up punishing everyone, especially those either the wrong color and/or not claiming residence in high class areas.

A Legend Elsewhere, Just Another Jerk on the Freeway Here

I've kinda followed Steven Gerrard's career as a soccer player in Liverpool, England.  Liverpool is usually one of the best teams in one of the top soccer leagues in Europe.  As a crowd before games, they sing a very uniting, humbling song, "You'll Never Walk Alone," which is my favorite anthem of any sports team.

He was basically their everything-man, their longest-tenured captain for 12 years, which in any professional sports is an eternity.  He was an icon for not just English soccer, but all of soccer


The ESPN interview makes interesting points as they paruse through Venice Beach --- that's something a high-profile athlete here, ala Stephen Curry or Chris Paul, might not be able to do here, but might be able to get away with in a not-as-basketballed-up place like say, England. 

A legend elsewhere can be relatively anonymous and enjoy the public spaces here and probably vice versa.  I was heartened to learned that he has already taken in the LA experience of...rush hour traffic and road rage.