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Sunday, 21 September 2008


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Karl Steel

assists me with another matter

You realize that this has no become the most interesting part of the story?

Karl Steel

NOW! Dammit. "now become"

Luther Blissett

The curious incident of the cat litter in the night-time.

You know, the entire time, I'm thinking, *Barton Fink*. I'm thinking, there's a head in that box. I'm thinking, there's no way the fates are gonna let this man get out of graduate school without sending him a fat man who screams, "I'll show you the life of the mind!"

Rich Puchalsky

I was thinking of a game that cops used to make black people in D.C. play called "Guess the cash". It goes like this. A cop comes up to a black person in a "bad" part of D.C. and asks him if he knows how much money he has in his pockets. He gives a number. Then the cop searches him and counts his money. If he was exactly right, he's free to go. If he wasn't exactly right, then the money must have been from drug sales, and is subject to confiscation.


I'm in a relationship with someone who spends most of her time on the other side of the country, so needless to say, we talk on the phone a lot. I also tend to live with other people, so to spare them our conversations at night, I walk around outside. Apparently, using a cell phone at night, in a neighborhood, is extremely suspicious behavior. I used to get stopped more than once a week, sometimes two times a night. I eventually memorized a script that gives them all the information they need to leave me alone, so our interactions would only last a minute or two and I didn't even have to get off the phone, I'd just say "hold on lovely, it's the police again".

Speaking of racism and the police, blatant bias once directly saved my girlfriend and I. We were riding our bikes home at night after having a couple drinks, and decided to do some exploring. There was an alley that looked interesting, blocked by a cattle fence, so we decided to check it out. As we're hoisting her bike over the fence, a squad car pulls up and makes some noises, and I notice the "NO TRESSPASSING" sign on the fence. The police officer rolls down his window and says "have you two seen any suspicious behavior going on around here?"
I am literally sitting on top of a fence with a no tresspassing sign, holding a bicycle, it's 2 AM, we're drunk and wearing basically all black. So we sort of glance around at what we're doing, and I'm like "what?" The police officer continues "we got a report of like three or four black guys loitering, making some noise, did you see anything like that?" and we're like "nope, all we saw was a guy walking his dog." So the cop is like "okay, let us know if you see anything suspicious" and rolls off. We finish hoisting the bike into private property and ride off and it takes maybe 20 seconds before we look at each other and are like "what just happened?"

Rich Puchalsky

Yeah, J.S., that sounds familiar. When I lived in L.A., I had a hobby of taking pictures of murals there. Hanging out in a back alley with a camera is an inherently suspicious activity, evidently -- both to the cops and the drug dealers -- but the cops would always let me go after really minimal questioning (like "Are you all right?"). On the other hand, I was once having a conversation with a graffiti artist who wasn't even holding a spray can and the cops rumbled up and questioned him intensely, apparently for being young, while ignoring me.

What got me was other people's fear about traversing the city. Possibly justified, depending on who you were. This was a couple of years after the riots, but I never had real trouble being a white guy in Compton or anything. But a black guy doing the same thing? Good luck. I also once got a call from a woman in L.A. who wanted copies of a few pictures, and I asked her why she didn't just take pictures of them. She said that she'd tried it, and got catcalled all the time.


Hey Scott did you know that William Gibson linked to your post about DFW's death:

That makes me commenter on a blog written by a guy who writes in another blog that William Gibson reads. As a teenager, I knew I would ascend to great heights.


I did notice that, but only because Rauchway trolls the stats and learns of such things. (I know I should read Gibson's page, but I'm not into pictures.)

As for the profiling aspect, what's odd is that I was, for the first time since I shaved off my dissertation-beard, almost Caucasian-looking. It's like my reputation was somehow visible, and I was profiled via it.

Karl, that story's a lot more mundane --- has to do with vehicle registration and my inability to acquire it. I've tried to write that little saga a few times, but I just can't manage to make the DMV and VRFRP funny.


I'm glad this was you and not me. I have a really short fuse for this sort of situation, and I probably would have pissed the guy off.

kid bitzer

you handled all that super well, but i still resent the fuck out of the fact that the cop can engage in bullying and disrespectful behavior with absolutely no accountability.

if you're rude, you get your head beat in.
if he's rude, you get your head beat in.

the whole thing pisses me off. and of course, that's the last thing you can act on or show in any way when you are actually in the situation.

Scott Jacobs

I so would not have responded in a polite manner.

I would have responded with "IF you were to open my trunk, I would be upset because I have not, nor will I, give you permission to search my car."

It likely would have gone downhill from there... But I have a lawyer on retainer for such acts of "Smart-Ass"...


What's up with all the "I would not have responded politely" comments? It's the Police, for goodness sake. The cop already explained that there was a robbery problem in the neighborhood, had established Scott had no ID, and (not unreasonably) found the "kitty litter" explanation to be a bit thin. After that, it's establish the exact circumstances of a reasonable search and then look for a lie. No lie, no issue.



If there's a robbery problem in this neighborhood I'll eat my hat. The cops around here are just really bored and making excuses to have something to do. Read the blotter, and feel the excitement. Last week all of UCI had a handful of petty thefts, none of which look to have happened in residential areas. Their most important task seems to be investigating false car alarms.

Karl Steel

has to do with vehicle registration and my inability to acquire it.

has to do with "vehicle registration" and my inability to "acquire it."


Its nice to see that facist cops arent going to have a hard time with you.

Personally, I would have gone down to the fucking station, been arrested, then pressed charges for harrassment..

But thats just me..


All you gotta remember is the old Alberto-Gonzales. Just keep saying "I do not recall", and you don't need to answer any questions. You do live in America, right? And as an American, you have the right to walk down the street without a cop asking you for ID. If you do refuse to give ID and give the old "I do not recall", then expect the cop to be a bit suspicious, but there's little else he can do but follow you around.

Dr. Stabbingworth

Lots of bad legal advice here.

You never have to show a cop your I.D. unless you are driving your car. Then you better have a license.

You must identify yourself if the police have reason to belief you are committing or have committed a crime. But you still don't have to show an I.D.

The cop had no reasonable cause to search the car. But you waived your fourth amendment right.

In the future, do not speak to the police. Do not waive your right to unreasonable searches. If he continues to detain you, you ask the following questions:

"Have I committed a crime?"
"Am I free to go?"

Then, if you are not free to go, you ask for a lawyer and decline to answer any questions.


pussies like you are why the police state is able to creep in.

prof law

I agree 100% with Dr. Stabbingworth. You were under no obligation to share the contents of your trunk. In fact "reasonable cause" doesn't even enter into it, the only warrantless search that LEO can avail themselves to is for their own protection. Even IF he had reason to suspect you of committing crime, he would not have the right to search your vehicle.

When you see cops finding crack pipes in people's pockets on COPS, that search is ostensibly for weapons to protect the LEO.

I fear that many Americans feel obligated to make things easy for a guy doing a dangerous job and give up their rights without a second thought.

I hope that I would have the courage of my convictions were I in a similar situation and not felt compelled to waive my rights. It may not be as trouble free as your encounter, but I doubt that I would regret it.

Rich Puchalsky

Jeez, I hope that you don't listen to any of the above "advice". Cops are perfectly capable of, let's see -- there was an actual case in D.C. a while back where they handcuffed a peaceful protester to a pillar in the lockup so that he couldn't defend himself as he was gang-raped. Yeah, suing them afterwards would really make up for that. And the cops don't pay for the lawsuit anyways, so what do they care?

America is a police state, and while struggling for civil rights is honorable and can be productive, being a cowboy on the spur of the moment is not the way to go.

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