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 In the above incident, a tourist from Poland was driving and was stopped because his car registration was out of date.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.