The starting point for this diversion into Blogland is that I am not asserting that some of my best friends are black. I am stating that I vehemently oppose mistreating anyone based on any physical characteristic or sexual orientation. I also believe that the terrifying police encounter that prompts this post would have been worse if I was black.
I have thought for many years that a typical beat cop is a former high-school thug who continues to delight in harassing the "good kids." This is from the perspective of a boy who single-handed ran the blood bank for two years and was recruited for the group that would help out with events such as parents' weekend and alumni events. Further, most faculty members who sought me out after losing their dogs found their pets with me. I still pet virtually every dog I met on the street and call him or her a good boy or girl.
I also believe that any form of police brutality against black people should be well publicized. An aspect of this is that I am frustrated that my being an unsympathetic victim hinders any scrutiny of mistreatment of me. I believe that this is why cops (sadly accurately) feel that they can get away with venting their frustration on us "goody two shoes" who do not smoke and rarely drink.
I am fearful of potential reprisals as to sharing my story but believe that it illustrates the scope of the problem. The story is true; the names have been omitted to protect this innocent.
My recent first foray into the real world for a stay that is the subject of an upcoming Inn Credible New England article sadly bore out the truth as to the average cop on the street. The tragic larger truth is that your average boy in blue whose mentality reflects a collar of the same hue abuses his power to assert his personal resentments. As stated above, a related note is that epic fear of retaliation on the streets and in the courts is behind keeping details of my run in with the abusive law purposefully vague. Despite loosened Covid restrictions, I am not going to venture very far from home anytime soon.
In my case, my appearance accurately indicates that, although I am far from a one-percenter, I do not live paycheck-to-paycheck and can afford one or two trips to the outlets a year. My relatively nice clothes, well-groomed appearance, and manner of speaking often get me labelled "fag" despite the other person having no idea where I land along the Kinsey Scale.
The larger "sin" these days is that I have the time to occasionally spend the day shopping while cops and "shop girls" must work in 85-degree heat while enhancing their chances of contracting COVID-19. I am sympathetic regarding this but have done NOTHING to warrant venting their anger at me. I very much am a "please, and thank you" kinda guy who automatically calls any service person of any age sir or madam. Further, friends of my parents are Mr. or Mrs. to me even several years into my adulthood.
The backstory is that I last was in the area where the incident occurred while on an October 2019 Inn Credible New England trip, (One spoiler is that I no longer will shop at that mall for deals that are comparable to bargains that easily are available online).
The horrendous treatment that I received at the hands of the sorority-like staff at a store went to the extent of one statuesque woman COMPLETELY ignoring me as I strained to reach jeans well above my head in an attempt to find my size. She watched as I strained to reach the higher shelves and did my best to fling the jeans back up. I repeatedly apologized for making a mess.
The tall clerk turned a deaf ear both to my comment "man, these shelves are high" and my request for a step ladder. I did not dare ask for help.
For the record, as also is relevant below, I am 5'8" and 160 pounds. I further lack any visible or concealed tattoos or piercings.
The icing on the cake in October was the woman at the register telling me that the discount on the jeans had expired the day before; she recanted that statement when I started walking back to the jeans to get the sign advertising the markdown. My "sin" was being persistent enough that corporate called these employees to task.
I returned early last week and hesitated to go to that store but did not want to be intimidated out of exercising my right to do so; I was not going to buy anything unless I really liked it and they practically were giving it away. I was curious as to if the staff had taken the "coaching " to heart.
I MERELY looked in the store window on arriving at the store and saw that it was closed; there were no posted hours, but I assumed that it was going to open 30 minutes later. I then had a friendly outside conversation with a maintenance man who saw me from the moment that I approached the store until I walked away to go to a nearby Starbucks.
On walking back to the store, I saw a police car pull up and an officer go inside. I assumed that there was an overnight break-in and that the store likely would be open for business while the manager provided the police report. The spoiler this time is that my walking over and sitting on a bench outside the store would have been criminally stupid had I committed the misdemeanor of which I soon was accused.
Within seconds of my sitting down, two additional police cars pulled up. A friend who expressed the universal shock-and-awe that my appearance would cause that level of concern pointed out that devoting three cars of this small-town force to keep me in line FULLY supports the defund the police sentiment. I was wearing shorts that clearly showed that I did not have any form of weapon.
One of the cops immediately asked if I was at the stores last week; I told him that I was not and volunteered that I lived roughly two hours away. I also offered to show him my license. We had a few more rounds of this, and he soon took my license.
This cop then asked me why I was in town. I told him that I was in the area to write an article and had just come to the stores to shop. He then asked when I was last at the stores; I TRUTHFULLY told him that I had been there in October and shared the entire story of that incident as evidence of the animosity by the store employees. That led to the cop repeatedly asking me if I was last at the stores in October, and my responding the same way each time.
By this time, I was on the verge of tears. Despite this additional evidence that I hardly was Al Capone, the cops did not acknowledge this reasonably highly agitated state. I never go up from the bench, never raised my voice, and moved very little. NONE of the cops wore masks.
Another highlight was my saying that I was not the guy they were looking for. One of the cops meanly chuckled and said that I was the guy that they were looking for. I later stated that I would walk away and not go into that store; I added that I would leave the area altogether. The comment that accompanied the mean chuckle that time was "no, you will not be going in" X store.
I then was accused of pounding on the store door, which I had never touched. I remain unsure if I was accused of doing so earlier that morning or the week before. I truthfully told them I had not done so.
I repeatedly asked the officers to find the maintenance man with whom I had spoken. They refused to do so and added that whether I had pounded on the door was irrelevant because the store employees reported that I had done so and had placed them in fear.
The insult that was added to that injury was that the incident that occurred several days ago while I likely was watching DVD episodes of "The Nanny" in my home had prompted the employees to arrange for a stakeout (likely involving lucrative overtime) in case I showed up.
My alleged criminal stupidity this time is that I drove 240 miles round trip two weeks to create mayhem, drove another 240 miles round trip to return to the scene of the crime, and walked right up the store despite seeing the cop enter the store.
In the midst of this, I was issued a criminal trespass order. I should have left the area altogether but really wanted to go to a few stores; I did cut the trip very short.
I saw the police car stationed outside the store more than an hour later out of an apparent belief that I would walk up after all that so that I could experience the joy of being arrested.
Especially while there, I was petrified that the store employees would make another false report that I went back and that I would be arrested. That fear lingers.
The town manager in this community that incredibly relies on happy shoppers has never responded to an e-mail with a detailed account of these events, a voice-mail, or a message from her assistant with whom I spoke.
I did speak to the police chief, who has a disingenuous message on the department website that he is concerned about the conduct of his officers and wants to hear about any misconduct. He shrugged off the possibilities that the officers acted on "bad information" or "misunderstood" what they were told,
This guy charged with keeping the cops in line also told me that my being a "frustrated customer," which I was in October, justified the criminal trespass order and the related treatment by his subordinates. He repeated the refusal to contact the maintenance worker who could verify my story as to that morning.
The chief also stated that he was not concerned about a false police report by the store employees.
The added injury to the injury was stating that a report of violating the order would only lead to my arrest if I was caught in the store or if a security camera captured me outside the store. The chief did not respond when I pointed out that the same camera that provided that proof could show that I had NEVER done anything improper there.
The kicker, which COMPLETELY disregards well-publicized Starbucks incidents involving black people, is the chief asserting that the retail store in his town can get a criminal trespass order issued against anyone for any reason.
I left a voicemail for the CEO of the store chain; I also e-mailed her a detailed account of the incident and my defenses. The corporate response was an e-mail from a loss-prevention employee, who added a claim of my yelling at the store manager and making unreasonable demands on the morning of the run-in with the police. This apparently was in response to the reports by the store employees falling apart. I was told as well that I now am subject to arrest if I go in any store in the chain.
This person soon said that she was going to hang up on me. She refused to reach out to my witness or to ask if there was video surveillance of me on the morning of the run-in with the police.
My criminal stupidity this time would be ensuring an arrest and jail sentence by going anywhere near the store or even the town. I will not even drive through it out of fear of the old broken tail light on the car trick.
The bottom line this time is that this incident adds to the proof that police misconduct is broad and goes unchecked. The sad truth is that the same law-enforcement folks who presumably lament a revolving door for actual criminals enjoy the same benefit when they abuse their discretion.