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I cannot deny that I have enjoyed a by-and-large sheltered life; as a conscientious liberal, I try to temper my enjoyment of American privilege with the acknowledgement that my perspective is somewhat warped by it.  I am the eldest son of a white-collar family, yet also an open homosexual.  It is easy for me to see how and why many Americans in my position, such as my parents, are misled into becoming ardent followers of the Republicans' brand of conservatism.  I grew up in the Detroit Suburbs of Michigan, represented by Thaddeus McCotter, and moved to Tampa to begin my professional career, living near Bayshore Drive and represented in Congress by Kathy Castor.  Both of these regions are notable for their relative affluence.  For a long time, the closest I'd come to experiencing first-hand political conflict was several family members' volunteering for McCain-Palin while I interned for Hillary Clinton.

I check DailyKOS more or less every day, having been a regular reader going back to 2004.  The site has often been an intellectual refuge for me.  Growing up as I did in a privileged white suburb, many of my neighbors and classmates didn't afford political life much thought beyond supporting whomever their friends and family supported.  The Iraq War was a particularly trying time in my political life.  I was surrounded by many who suffered the conflagration of Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, which was subtly perpetuated by the Republican Party and other enablers.  In 2005, my Honors Humanities teacher's daughter, Jill Carroll, was taken hostage in Iraq, and I poured my feelings into a diary here.  The community was so responsive and supportive that I was asked to take the diary down, as the Carrolls were seeking to disarm the terrorists by minimizing publicity.  When I do opt to contribute to our community, I do so with intimately personal pieces, rather than making commentary on events or other op-ed's.  I like to believe that this community, which I value so much, is most benefitted and most beneficial in providing a channel to "pajama politics"--the politics that we each experience on a supremely individual level.

The funny thing about being a gay American is that unlike other politically oppressed minorities in the country, it is often possible for us to be unidentifiable.  Most days when you pass me on the street, I don't offer much indication of being openly gay.  I have blonde hair, green eyes, stand about 5'10" and weigh ~180 lbs.  I'm lucky enough to tan and not freckle, despite possessing a healthy dose of Irish blood.  On the whole, I meet the eye as a quite average white boy more often than not.

On July 27th, 2011 this was not the case.  On July 27th, 2011, I experienced discrimination and the abuse of American law in a way that I did not believe occurred in our country.

I'm pretty sure that more people on this site will have attended an "80s party" than have not, but for the unaware, these are get-togethers where the attendees attire themselves as they might have circa 1986 or so.  It's as good an excuse as any to don big hair and neon colors.  I was very happy to be attending, and very excited to appear in my outfit.  I had dyed my hair to be a bright red with blond highlights in my bangs, wore a black T-Shirt from Forever 21 which loudly proclaimed "MADE IN THE 80s" in neon pink and white across the front, a pair of jeans stylishly pre-destroyed from Guess, and accessorized with a white, rainbow=studded rainbow belt, a rainbow pride bracelet, and a choker necklace that dangled zipper clasps in a loud, proud rainbow pattern.

After returning to my apartment with a straight friend of mine, he woke me up in the dead of night, as we had both fallen asleep and he needed to get back to his parents' house outside the city.  Not having consumed any intoxicants at the party, I agreed to return him home.  We departed, first stopping at a gas station just a block away from my home to gas up the Volkswagen for the trek.

I went into the gas station to pay cash for the pump, and struck up a conversation with the clerk.  I was still in my proud outfit, and my friend is good-looking enough that I imagine he could have been mistaken for being my date.  Behind us stood an officer of the police department; I paid little mind to him.  I returned to my vehicle, finished pumping the gas, and we set off for the 20-mile trip.

I had not yet left the gas station parking lot before the officer behind me turned his lights on.  Thinking this must just be a coincidence, I first started to leave the station, then looped back around to re-enter the gas station parking lot.  To my surprise, the officer tailed us for the entire time, and stopped his vehicle behind mine as I pulled up to the pump I had just used.  This act was, in and of itself, an illegal stop.  Yet the illegal conduct of this officer, and the Tampa Police Department, does not stop here.  This was but the first of many illegal violations of my rights which I would endure, only the first abuse of power that I knew happened in totalitarian regimes but thought impossible in the United States.

My best friend growing up was the granddaughter of the Chief of Police in our town, and I have always behaved with the utmost respect for officers of the law, so upon stopping my vehicle I turned on the interior lights and gathered my documentation.  I provided these upon request and when I asked the officer why I had been stopped, he instructed me to step out of the vehicle.

The officer had me perform a field sobriety test.  I did make one error in that when he requested me to recite the alphabet, I began reciting it backwards from the letter Z; I suffer from an anxiety disorder and panic attacks, and given that I had no idea why I was being so harshly tested by this officer, I was experiencing very intense anxiety.  Recalling the incident is, in and of itself, a major trigger for me to this day.  Upon completing the field test, the officer informed me that he had observed my pupils behaving abnormally during the test and he was placing me under arrest for Driving Under the Influence (DUI).  As he handcuffed me I began asking for a breathalyzer test in futility.  Before placing me in his patrol car, the officer took the time to remove my pride jewelry; my bracelet, belt, and necklace were all stripped from me.  I was forced to abandon my vehicle and my friend, whom could not drive the manual transmission.  I tearfully pleaded with the officer to provide me with a breathalyzer test.  At one point, he said 'I'll tell you why I won't give you a breathalyzer.  I think you're on something else.'

Arriving at the station, I couldn't bring myself to cooperate.  This was so wrong, so against everything that I believed this country stood for, that I couldn't bring myself to facilitate this unjust transgression.  I said to the officer, 'I'm not going into jail for a crime that both you and I know I did not commit," and stopped walking, attempting to stand my ground non-violently.  The next thing I knew, I was underneath several police officers.  At this point, without access to my medication, I suffered a panic attack.  I cannot recall many of the details during this period, or exactly what happened when.  The officers took me down with excessive force, resulting in a twisted ankle that I could barely walk on and several lacerations on my head.

I apologize, but these next memories are rather jumbled; for my resistance I was restrained in chains in a holding cell with a mask, as apparently I had spit during the struggle.  I was gagged and sitting on my handcuffs, leaving further lacerations and bruising on my wrists.  After being booked, I was placed in solitary confinement, and my next memory is of waking up in a pool of my own blood, which congealed underneath my head as I slept.  Unable to walk due to the tremendous pain in my ankle, when I awoke I began to cause as much of a commotion as possible, as I needed medical attention.  I remember it being hours before I managed to get a guard's attention and, after initially being refused medical attention point-blank, I claimed to start hearing voices.  I was unable to walk, and my cell was covered in my own blood, as well as needing medication for my panicked state.  Florida law includes a provision commonly referred to as the "Baker Act," wherein parties who ignore an individual claiming to be experiencing suicidal thoughts or hearing voices can be held legally responsible for the consequences of ignoring that individuals' claims.  I was willing to say anything to get to the infirmary, and did.

Still to this day I cannot recall the phone call I made to my parents for them to post bail, but they did.  Finally in the infirmary, I found almost no sympathy for my plight.  Again, prior to this encounter, my image of the police in our country was primarily defined through my view of my best friend's grandfather, an outstandingly upstanding man who never shied from his duty as a servant of the public goodwill, and this image was shattered in my experiences.  The officers I encountered had zero interest in serving me in any form, even in providing me adequate medical care; I had to claim psychiatric instability to the point of forcing legal responsibility on them even to get a band-aid and ibuprofen.

Bail having been posted, and having been placed under the baker act, they were required to take me to a public hospital before releasing me to a psychiatric care facility.  At the hospital, they performed X-rays, re-bandaged my wounds, and strapped me to the bed with belts.  From the hospital I was released and taken to a psychiatric facility, where under normal circumstances, a patient under the baker act is held for 72 hours.  I was arrested in the early hours of the morning of the 27th; on the morning of the 28th, I relayed my experiences to the supervising psychiatrist at the first opportunity, and she signed for my release as I was not suffering any symptoms which would merit further detaining me.

A little over 24 hours after that officer illegally stopped my vehicle I was finally freed back into the world.  The illegal stop meant that the field test was ruled inadmissible at trial, and although the DUI charge was thrown out, the officer perjured himself as to the events of the evening and my driver's license was suspended for refusing to give a breathalyzer.  The DA dropped the charges of non-violent resistance.  I was told by my lawyer that the District Attorney believed I should consider myself "lucky."

My friends and family have been mortified to hear of this experience.  I am a college student, a teacher, and a Democratic (with a big D) political activist, someone who has taught children and driven in Hillary Clinton's motorcade.  The only cause I have been able to think of behind the arresting officer's actions is a deep-seated, smoldering hated for homosexuals.  How dare I go about with my boyfriend at night, thinking I can drive my vehicle when I deem it necessary?  How dare I make the officer wait behind me in line while I wave my limp-wristed hands about in conversation with the store clerk?  It is confounding as to why this officer of the law thought he would be serving the public good by illegally stopping and arresting me.

I have been very much afraid to bring this issue to light.  I am aware of its incendiary nature.  I am all too aware of the capability of the Tampa Police's ability to make my life a living Hell, with or without the backing of the law.  I do not think it is unfounded to see this issue very much raising a public spectacle.

I wrote this diary because from my perspective, the occurrence is couched in political issues.  There is the issue of the police's authority and how far it reaches.  There is the issue of how we determine when the servants of the public good have gone beyond the pale.  There is the issue of when a white kid who has never known police brutality has their faith in the system completely and utterly shattered; when someone who has never operated outside the law sees the power of that law sickly abused, and is completely disabused of the notion that officers do not go beyond what is morally right in their service.

Before this happened I considered myself a proud American.  I had faith that our courts, our police, our prosecutors, and our laws served the public and served it well.  I enjoyed a privileged upbringing and sheltered existence, being by-and-large a beneficiary of the American system.  That all changed on a night when I had the audacity to express my pride in being different.

What am I now?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (11+ / 0-)

    "I don't understand why people are so frightened by new ideas. I'm frightened by the old ones." - John Cage

    by Tiki on Tue Oct 29, 2013 at 05:56:03 PM PDT

  •  Welcome (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tiki, anna shane, allensl

    with deep apologies to the world of 21st Century law enforcement where the police call the shots, and the judge and DA almost always accepts their testimony, even when they know its false.

    "If you tell the truth, you'll eventually be found out." Mark Twain

    by Steven D on Tue Oct 29, 2013 at 06:06:11 PM PDT

  •  you woke up (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    this is a police state, and officers lie to cover their own butts, and they back each other up.  You didn't get sympathy probably because you were being unnecessarily naive.  When I get stopped by the police, I am always very polite.  That's because they have the power to  harm me, and at the least to waste my time, and I want it over asap.  

    Even when most police officers are rational, respectful professionals, you never know which kind you got, so it's most practical to pretend you respect them.

    There are plenty of on-going suits over police misconduct, they take over lives, and there isn't a need for more of them.

    Of course, and on the other hand, what a icky experience, I am so sorry you had to go through that kind of unpleasantness.  It's what a lot of people go through, some more than once. It isn't nice, and it isn't necessary, but our citizens seem to want nasty police officers, anyway they don't get heat from the majority.  

    •  I think that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      anna shane

      naïve is almost a charitable description for my behavior...I was beyond clueless.

      "I don't understand why people are so frightened by new ideas. I'm frightened by the old ones." - John Cage

      by Tiki on Tue Oct 29, 2013 at 06:13:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  who, me? (0+ / 0-)

        It happens now to everyone.  Mostly to kids of color, way mostly, but, to everyone.  Our cops watch too much TV.  

        •  I have to wonder... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          misslegalbeagle, allensl, anna shane

          Are there not police officers who hear these kinds of stories and cringe?  I know that my best friend's grandfather would be disgusted...when he was Chief of Police, my town was exceptionally small, and he retired when I was still very young, but I remember him being disgusted by the behavior of the Detroit PD.

          There have to be liberals in blue.  Have their voices been so effectively stamped out?

          "I don't understand why people are so frightened by new ideas. I'm frightened by the old ones." - John Cage

          by Tiki on Tue Oct 29, 2013 at 06:22:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I work with law enforcement officers all the (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Tiki, erratic, Be Skeptical, anna shane

            time, and, in my experience, there are lots of good cops.  It's the bad guys that generate the page hits and the headlines.  

            Liberal spaces, like DKos, aren't exactly welcoming places for people in the law enforcement community.  As someone who takes her job pretty f-ing seriously, its really disheartening to come into a thread like this, and just a few comments up, assume that everyone who does XYZ job is a monster just itching to put a guilty person behind bars.  Sometimes its hard to keep fighting perception, so I don't.  I could throw around my liberal bona fides (throwing out drug possession cases, prosecuting violence against women), but so many people have made up their mind that my job makes me a lying, racist, tool of the man, that it's tough to participate sometimes.  I imagine a lot of good cops feel the same.

            •  I suppose (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              erratic, Be Skeptical, anna shane

              it can't be easy to each across the lines when they're regarding such a hot topic.  I had always maintained a largely positive view of the police, and I have to believe that even the officer who felt it was his place to act outside the law regarding me has done good in his career.

              One of the things that we need to focus on more as a liberal community is the fact that people don't fit so neatly into the boxes we want them to.  At one point in my life I considered becoming a police officer myself, and it cannot be possible that everyone in any group fits the stereotypes 100%.  It is too bad that the good voices on either side get drowned out by people who have abused the system, being either citizens or officers, and diminish the potency of those with legitimate claims.

              "I don't understand why people are so frightened by new ideas. I'm frightened by the old ones." - John Cage

              by Tiki on Tue Oct 29, 2013 at 06:57:29 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  still policing has changed since 9/11 (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                with many LE depts looking for ex military even more aggressively, though training for a Bravo-11 is not exactly the training a beat cop needs.  Also LE agencies have lost their minds with the militarization trend with SWAT units routinely serving warrants or raiding chicken farms (yep, Arpaio) or even buying military surplus vehicles designed to survive a tactical nuclear attack (either Dallas county or Houston, I cannot remember which) and even campus cops now tooling around in armored vehicles

                •  Insecurity (0+ / 0-)

                  In a way, this goes back to my thoughts on there not being enough respect for LEOs and the profession in general.  Tampa is not Baghdad, and I doubt any of its citizens would prefer law enforcement to treat it as such, and yet the boys at MacDill AFB get infinitely more respect than TPD.  Does the insecurity of Sheriff "Pink Boxers" Arpaio lead to this kind of behavior?  Does the modern United States have a place for "grunts," or is this an outdated concept that should be left behind?  I really would prefer not to think of my local police as either GI Joe or Officer Barbrady...many would benefit from re-thinking our approach to LEOs...

                  "I don't understand why people are so frightened by new ideas. I'm frightened by the old ones." - John Cage

                  by Tiki on Tue Oct 29, 2013 at 07:59:46 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  I'd like some ex-military (0+ / 0-)

                  on my town's force. Our guys overreact to everything because not much happens here, and they're bored.  I would guess someone from the military would have some sense about what is and isn't appropriate. While most cops are likely decent, most pepole are going about our own business.  

                  •  it depends; during our Iraqi intervention (0+ / 0-)

                    they loosened up the basic requirements a lot to fill the ranks and really had a problem, for example with WP types enlisting for the military training.  A good many militias during this time recommended that their proselytes pull a hitch in the military to pick up the skills they might need later

                    •  yes, they were taking anyone who was brave enough (0+ / 0-)

                      to enlist.  

                      They gave men and women who'd had problems a chance, and for the most part the soldiers were great, professional, reliable, and nice.  I've even met gang members who went in and then turned themselves into top notch soldiers and sensible people.  

                      I never met one militia person.  I'd guess that they wouldn't want to be small town police officers anyway, but also, I'd bet they had a great chance to learn some sense and later not mention it.

                      The military was the first institution to fully integrate, and there is nothing like relying on someone who doesn't look like you to cover your back to change a person's mind.

                      Plus, they've seen real danger, they can tell the difference between dangerous and not dangerous.  

            •  98% or more LEOs are diligent and ethical (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              in their interactions with the public.  Unfortunately, in some locales the percentage is far lower as nepotism and other forms of favoritism is rampant (same as any other profession) and there is also the problem of the "Blue Wall".  In this incompetent and even criminal behavior is protected by brother officers and whistleblowers are punished.  Frank Serpico was perhaps the first high profile major media expose of problems in a police dept but to this day, some officers are protected when they should be booted (as in any profession, even doctors and attorneys).
              I would even say that the number of problem cops may be less than 1% since "gypsy" cops are also a problem (same with medical profession) where problem cops are allowed to resign instead of being fired or arrested.  They then move on down the road to their next gig.

              Malfeasance and misbehavior by cops is so much more noticeable to us it seems because they are in life and death situations as a profession and as such, their snap decisions can have such wide ranging long lasting effects

              •  A lack of respect (0+ / 0-)

                It seems that, somewhat poetically, this is rooted in an across-the-board lack of respect for the profession.  The deference we afford to attorneys at law and the comparatively lengthy certification process is something that really ought to also be afforded to LEOs.  After all, they're the ones with the gun.  Lawyers are afforded the benefit of time to get the issues right, but the inherent impact of the snap decisions made by LEOs can have much more far-reaching effects.  After all, the death penalty is so rarely utilized in our justice system--how many Americans are killed by courts?  How many are killed in confrontations with police?  And the casualties are not one-sided, as LEOs can end up in brutally unfortunate scenarios wherein lives are lost.

                For better or worse, the fear and pain I've endured throughout this experience has deepened my respect for LEOs.  On the whole, I think the profession is not given enough respect by the American public, and their conduct is not taken seriously enough.  Perhaps if the position of an officer of the law was given a higher societal respect, we would subsequently have higher quality law enforcement.

                "I don't understand why people are so frightened by new ideas. I'm frightened by the old ones." - John Cage

                by Tiki on Tue Oct 29, 2013 at 07:34:19 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  years ago when I ran for county council, one thing (0+ / 0-)

                  I advocated was increased pay scale for LEO along with increased education and training requirements along with continuing education requirements.

                  I would say, from a mole's eye view, that one problem now is recruitment followed by a lack of resources available to officers to deal with vocational stress.  I note the military is now seriously doing some heavy duty intervention with combat veterans, following reports that 1/4-1/3 of combat veterans suffer from some degree of PTSD.  We as a society have to recognize that LEOs are also subject to PTSD and other stress related disorders and offer to them avenues for rehabilitation.  As it is now, in many depts, seeking mental health assistance is the kiss of death to a LE career.  (which then leads to my hobby horse about the abysmal state of mental health care in this country)  

              •  nonetheless (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                they sure cover for the bad ones.  It's like doctors, they never tell you who's a butcher, but they know.  If only cops would tell on other cops, they could get rid of the bad ones.  

  •  If you are taken before a magistrate, be careful (0+ / 0-)

    or a town judge.  One town judge around here, who had a HS certificate (he had graduated the local special education program which does not grant diplomas). He was famous for asking the arresting officer for his opinion of what the verdict should be and then issuing said decision.

    Magistrates can be almost as bad as my appearance before one resulted in his attempting to establish an easement across my property in an illegal taking (magistrates cannot establish easements in this state; easements are established by Mesne Conveyances,)  Fortunately, I had a copy of applicable statute to show that he could not order me to establish and maintain a public road for the benefit of the county.  In addition, I had citations from earlier cases where landowners who had their land use altered retroactively were eligible for compensation from the government agency exercising its right of imminent domain.  (In other words, governments cannot change land use simply to reduce the FMV in imminent domain seizures)  

    •  Terrifying (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I have been very wary of taking this issue further for this very reason.  Part of me wants to get this officer's badge to hang over the mason jar for his balls on a shelf.  Several people have encouraged me to take legal action of some kind, especially members of the gay community in town.  I've even been told to contact the ACLU.

      Yet this entire incident demonstrated to me all too well the power of the police regardless of the legal standing of the situation.  The judge for my trial is the son of a very conservative former mayor, and alluded to believing that the officer was probably correct in his belief that I was intoxicated in spite of the lack of any supporting evidence whatsoever.  It also didn't merit almost any attention at trial, but the police report itself is erroneous, with the officer stating that he only passed me on his way to the restroom as opposed to waiting behind me in line--the restrooms at this particular gas station are located outside.

      I would not wish this experience on my worst enemy, let alone a perfect stranger.  Are other Americans really so malevolent towards their neighbors as to not think preventing these kinds of abuses doesn't even warrant spending the time to look into them?

      "I don't understand why people are so frightened by new ideas. I'm frightened by the old ones." - John Cage

      by Tiki on Tue Oct 29, 2013 at 07:26:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I had a police chief threaten to shoot me years (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ago.  I had to ask myself if I intended to remain in the community or if I was willing to completely relocate as the Powers that Be would surely seek retribution (though my business brought $1M annually into the town in commerce).  My decision was to move my business a couple of towns over and then to move on personally.  Living well is the best revenge  

  •  "There but for fortune..." (0+ / 0-)

    There but for Fortune
    Old 60s Phil Ochs song sung by Joan Baez.

    We all get our head-slap moments one way or the other, I guess.

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