When Protect and Serve turns into Fear and Loathing

I’ve been pondering this story for a while, but yesterday, I had a difficult run-in myself with the California Highway Patrol and realized I had to speak out. In the above incident, a tourist from Poland was driving and was stopped because his car registration was out of date. He had a valid, and legal to drive with in the US, EU drivers license. But because the officer wasn’t familiar with European licenses, the officer impounded the car and basically dropped the guy off on a street corner with nothing.

Now, I can only imagine how hard it is be a CHP or a Police Officer in Los Angeles, it’s gotta be scary and threatening and a thankless job. And sometimes you have to deal with criminals. However, most people who get stopped for traffic violations are just normal Joes. Trying to stay sane, doing their thing. Not evil. And most people are not criminals. In the story above, not only did the officer who stopped a tourist treat him with the ultimate lack of respect and basically stripped him of his belongings in a seemingly unsafe, unfair and should be illegal way, but when questioned later, both he and his superiors felt entirely justified in the way they handled the situation.

I was stopped yesterday by a CHP officer because I jumped onto the freeway from the wrong lane. Okay, my bad. But the officer went out of his way to be rude, threatening and gruff with me. I was all sweetness and polite, but the guy couldn’t even crack a smile or answer my gentlest questions. I felt like if I said the wrong thing, he would whip out his gun and crack me over the head. He actually scared me. I mean really!!! Why be like that?

I guess the upshot of all this is…. how can we make changes so that CHP and Police officers stop acting like thugs? What kind of society do we live in that common citizens like me and the tourist in the link above have to fear and feel threatened by the guys who are supposed to be helpful. Isn’t the motto, “To Protect and Serve”? Again…. I know it’s a tough, nasty job… but laws are made to help make life easier, flow more evenly. Enforcing them doesn’t have to take a violent, non-caring approach. But it seems we are edging more and more to a police state. One where fear prevades our conciousness when we see an officer. Where people like me, who follow the laws (okay, maybe I have an occasional lapse in judgement when changing lanes!) are downright afraid of someone in uniform. I know this all sounds all pollyannaish… and I’m ranting a little… but there’s gotta be a better way. And the only way things will change is when people get fed up with being treated badly. Police/Highway Patrol Officers are people just like you and me and if their actions are deemed unacceptable by the majority, they can learn to change their tactics. I’m sure they would like their jobs better if they felt comfortable treating people with more respect and honor. Because behavior like the above only comes from fear… and abuse of power.

CategoriesUncategorized

18 Replies to “When Protect and Serve turns into Fear and Loathing”

  1. I have only had negative experiences with Los Angeles/SoCal cops and CHP. Seriously. And I agree with what you’re saying–yeah, it must be a tough job–but by the same token, they’ve chosen this job for the intended purpose of “protecting and serving” not “fucking with and being assholes,” which is, from my personal experience, their forte. I know lots of people who say they feel “Safe” when they see a cop. For me it’s the opposite. Even if I’m just walking my dog, my heart drops when I see a police officer. Pretty sad.

  2. There are bad apples out there. But not all of them. And the majority who are not, I assure you, don’t like the ones who do go out of their way to show they are a badass with a badge. That’s not cool and it isn’t good law enforcement.

    If you feel an officer haved inappropriately towards you, you should contact the local CHP office where either you live or the incident occured and fill out a complaint form. They most likely have a specific form and process to handle that issue. And they will investigate the issue and, if needed, discipline the officer.

    That’s the first-and-foremost most proactive thing you can do at this point. They’ll report back the results of the investigation or whatever they do with the complaint, and from there, you can decide if/how you want to take further action.

  3. I think assuming that cops get into the biz because they genuinely care about helping society is rather generous.
    It’s a job like any other. Some people work at starbucks because they love coffee, some because they think it’s the best choice for other reasons.

    A lot of cops have serious authority issues and being in that role lets them act out their weird problems.

  4. The big problem is that the LAPD is too small for the job that it handles. It’s a well-known, well-documented problem and it’s been that way since forever. The Thin Blue Line model of policing leads inevitably to these sorts of abuses.

  5. As I’ve always understood it from friends who’ve lived or grown up in communities where there are no civic police departments but either the LA County Sherrifs or the CHP (or both), there is quite a cultural gulf between the latter two and the former. Often, that’s attributed to the idea that CHP’s recruitment requirements are considerably more lax than the LAPDs; and Sherrifs must serve two years service at the beginning of their careers as prison guards; not an environment known to foster good will. The pop belief is that guys who couldn’t pass muster for the LAPD join the CHP. If that’s true, it may or may not explain some kind of difference.

    Anyone know better about this?

    Also, CD is right about filing a complaint. When I was 16, I was about one insult and one thrown-flashlight away from being assaulted by a west LA police officer. I filed a complaint with his local division, and was surprised to find a fairly sympathetic officer taking the report. I also spoke to the judge who’d dismissed my ticket, after I recorded as much firsthand information as possible right after the incident. Turns out the aggressive officer already had two other complaints on file and was going to be reviewed. So maybe the system works a little.

    Also, on the other hand, when I’m bicycling to and from work and pass cops, I tend to wave and try to acknowledge them in as friendly a way as possible. When one of their own was killed on Riverside last year, I extended my condolences to area colleagues. Even if you really don’t like cops–and I’ve long been suspicious of them–it can’t hurt to treat them like human beings, with a modicum of respect and decency. If enough people do it, we may notice a gradual softening.

    I dunno…I could be deluded though.

  6. yeah, that’s the thing… I actually do respect and am happy that police officers/CHP’s do exist and do their jobs…. because it’s a really tough one. I hate though that now, given a couple of weird aggressive experiences, and from hearing from others of similar scary incidents, that I’m afraid of people who are really…just doing their jobs. I am always super respectful and supportive, so it’s not that I’m being an asshole when I have interactions. And granted, those interactions are rare…. so it’s kind of an observation, and a wish that we could help (through training when they joing the force) people who have chosen ‘protect and serve’ do it with a gentler more supportive POV.

  7. Reality check here, cops are people not little automatons. They have shitty days like the rest of us. I’ve had good and awful interactions with them as well as the rest of humanity. I’ll give you their position of authority holds them to a higher standard of civility, but at the end of the day they are no different than the poor guy waiting on you at 7-11, dead tired, tired of being yammered at with unrealistic expectations etc.,. Being nice when you’ve screwed up and gotten caught has a way of tainting how we view our captors too! Being nice isn’t easy when we just got caught but it goes a long way.
    Personally I give the cops that run the local radar guns by the schools Starbuck cards as a thanks every now and then.

  8. This is a terrible story. In the other side of the coin – when I first moved to LA (Hollywood) I met two officers – one was from New Zealand originally and the other officer was called Angel if I remember correctly. They were both incredibly friendly and helpful. Giving me some advice on keeping safe in the neighborhood etc. I know how hard the job is and can only imagine some of the negative attitudes they must encounter every day! So I just wanted to say something nice about LAPD in light of the disgusting way the Polish guy was handled in the story above.

  9. CHP pussy-ass bitches can lick my hypothetical balls. I hate them. Real cops do frequently deal with real criminals, when not demoted to traffic duty. The CHP exists solely to generate revenue for the state. F that. One of those fools pulled me over because I passed him AT THE SPEED LIMIT. Gave me a lecture about how they gotta get those street racers off the streets. I told him I was coming home from school. With a 5liter box on the back, my motorcycle was hardly set up for street racing. He even wrote on the ticket I was going 55. Wrote me up for 3 BS mechanicals, saying they were non-fixable, (which means you have to pay a big fine) and one of them was a flagrant mistake on his part. So I got the 2 others fixed and signed off, went to court and the whole thing was thrown out. Moron. Speed doesn’t kill, stupidity does. When stupid people are no longer allowed to clog our freeways, we’ll all be safer. Look at Germany and Japan, where drivers undergo rigorous testing to qualify for licenses. I doubt the Autobahn sees as many crashes or rush-hour standstills as LA freeways.

  10. Well the autobahn has been plagued with horrific crashes for years, so much so that they even have speed limits imposed now. DK about Japan, never been there. I will give you that they do a better job of lane maintenance for speed there than here. They are considerably more biligerent than we are with the screw ups who won’t move right to let faster traffic pass.
    Speed kills or at least has been a significant factor in every fatal accident I have been involved with. Stupidity in the form of speeding where you shouldn’t be is the other factor.
    Sorry to hear your mods weren’t street legal but most of the racers out there do stuff that is clearly posted on the box or in the advertising “not for street use in California”.
    Cops are just like the rest of us and have good days or bad days and you won’t know what kind of day it is until they pull you over. Why give them reason to?

  11. The difference between driving here and in Japan?

    The Japanese are POLITE. Their whole society is built on the concept of politeness.

    Need I say we’re in no danger of that catching on HERE? Especially when it comes to driving.

  12. Having just returned from a trip to Japan and China, I can say with certainty that Japanese drivers are not polite to pedestrians. But yeah, they are generally polite to other drivers. Also, for Frazgo, they drive opposite the US.

    On the other hand, driving in Shanghai is terrifying. But since everyone drives the same way, they don’t seem to get into any more accidents there than we do here.

    My run-ins with CHP have been mostly okay, businesslike but not particularly polite. My one run-in with a police officer (I think he was airport police, pulled me over for speeding down Sepulveda while trying to pass someone doing Having just returned from a trip to Japan and China, I can say with certainty that Japanese drivers are not polite to pedestrians. But yeah, they are generally polite to other drivers. Also, for Frazgo, they drive opposite the US.

    On the other hand, driving in Shanghai is terrifying. But since everyone drives the same way, they don’t seem to get into any more accidents there than we do here.

    My run-ins with CHP have been mostly okay, businesslike but not particularly polite. My one run-in with a police officer (I think he was airport police, pulled me over for speeding down Sepulveda while trying to pass someone doing

Comments are closed.