My earlier post about Josh Wexler's run-in with a cop — and the consequences of filing a complaint against a cop — reminded me of an old news story from 2006.
An undercover team from a CBS affiliate in Miami went to various police stations, asked for a complaint form, and secretly videotaped the results. Sometimes they got the form without a problem. Sometimes the department had no form, and no clear process to make a complaint. But other times, the reaction illustrated the sense of entitlement and hubris that some people in authority carry around with them.
Some of the most choice exchanges after the jump.
Here's a cop who merely acts like an asshole:
Miami-Dade PD Midwest Station
tester: Yeah, I'm trying to find out how to file a complaint against an officer.
officer: What station does he work at?
tester: I'm not saying he works at this facility. I'm trying to file —
officer: My question is where does he work at? He works here at this district? Just try to answer my question. I think you think this is a big conspiracy.
tester: I want to find out how you file a complaint. That's what I'm asking.
officer: If you think you can walk in here and go straight to the director of Metro Dade Police without telling me any details, you can't do it. And I — for some reason, you think that, I don't know why. You think it's a big conspiracy, that we're going to hide some information about what happened to you, I don't know. Is it a traffic ticket? Is it something, you know, (?) complaint. That he stole your lunch money, did he steal your money, did he have sex with your wife, what?)
But some cops demanded that the testers identify themselves, and threatened to ticket them:
(Sea Ranch PD)
cop: We don't give you — we don't give you a form. Where do you live?
tester: I don't want to say.
officer: You don't want to say?
tester: Where are you going?
officer: You want to play hardball? We'll play hardball. I want ID.
tester: For what?
officer: I'm asking you for ID right now, that's why. Here, hand it to me. Hand it to me.
tester: Are you kidding me? Here.
officer: I said, hand me your ID. What are you doing here? This is —
tester: I came to ask you how to file a complaint.
officer: This is very suspicious.
tester: Asking how to file a complaint is suspicious?
officer: Why don't you shut up?
officer: I say this is very suspicious, that you pull in here at this time of night —
tester: Eight o'clock?
officer: You're constantly butting in.
tester: I'm constantly butting in?
Mike: Sir, I would like to leave.
officer: I would love it, but he's got your driver's license, so you're just going to have to stay.
Mike: Sir, are you detaining us?
officer: Okay, could I give you a ticket right now for improper backing.
Mike: You can do whatever you want, I suppose.
officer: Okay, that means yes, I guess you're saying, right? ANd for backing up, correct, yes?
Mike: I was backing up, sir, because I was leaving.
officer: But because I'm a nice guy, okay, I'm going to give you a warning. Is that fair?
Mike: Yes, sir.
Other threats are more extreme or overt:
tester: Yeah, I wanted to find out how to file a complaint against an officer. I just want to find out how you do it. Do you guys have a form or something that I could take with me.
officer: Well, you got to tell me first, and then I got to hear what's going on. You've got to tell me what the complaint is.
tester: Do you have a complaint form that I can, like, fill out or something like that?
officer: Might not be a legitimate complaint.
tester: Who decides that?
officer: I'm trying to help you.
tester: Like, if there's a form, why can't I just take it and leave, right?
officer: No, you don't leave with forms. You tell me what happened, and then I help you from there. Do you have I-D on?
officer: You know what? You need to leave.
officer: I'm going to tell you one more time, because I can't do this anymore with you, okay. You're refusing to tell me what you want to do, okay. You're refusing to tell me who's involved, where it happened, what transpired. You'e not cooperating iwth me one bit.
tester: I was just asking if you guys have a complaint form, like if there's some way for me —
officer: Out of my way.
tester: To contact Internal Affairs.
officer: You can do whatever the hell you want. It's a free country.
man: You're cursing at me.
officer: Where do you live? Where do you live? You have to tell me where you live, what your name is, or anything like that.
tester: For a complaint? I mean, like, if I have —
officer: Are you on medications?
tester: Why would you ask me something like that?
officer: Because you're not answering any of my questions.
tester: Am I on medications?
officer: I asked you. It's a free country. I can ask you that.
tester: Okay, you're right.
officer: So you're not going to tell me who you are, you're not going to tell me what the problem is.You're not going to identify yourself.
tester: All I asked you was, like, how do I contact —
officer: You said you have a complaint. You say my officers are acting in an inappropriate manner.
officer: So leave now. Leave now. Leave now.
tester: I'm not doing anything wrong.
officer: Neither am I. It's a free country.
officer: I'm not in your face. I'm standing on the sidewalk. It's a free country. One more step forward, and you'll see what happens. Take one more step forward.)
You're free to assume — as unqualified supporters of cop culture tend to — that these are outliers and extreme cases and incongruities and that in most cases cops are perfectly professional when you try to file a complaint. With that level of credulity, you'll probably wind up as one of my clients.
I'm grateful to cops, as a group. They do a frequently awful job under frequently abysmal conditions. That job is necessary to our safety. They deserve thanks for that — as do many other groups in our society. But I fall off the "hero" bus when people suggest that I owe individual cops respect no matter how they behave, and that I owe cops an obligation to look the other way when they ignore the rule of law, and that we ought to cut cops a break when they act like bullies any more than we would cut a break to a thug in an alley. Granted, the OMGWTF9/11!!! cops-are-always-right sentiment has died down just a bit, but it's still a strong undercurrent. It's a sick sentiment, a sentiment for dogs to feel about their masters, not a sentiment suitable for residents of a free country.
The only acceptable response to "I'd like to make a complaint" is "Yes, sir. Here's the web site, here's the phone number, and here's the form."
However, in the spirit of compromise, I've devised a complaint form that all of the police departments should find acceptable:
OFFICIAL COMPLAINT FORM
Cell Phone Number:
Name and Age of Children:
You love your children, don't you?: Yes/No
Supervisor's Supervisor, or other official in your company who would like to hear that you enjoy shitting over good honest cops who are the thin blue line between you and the dregs of humanity:
What officer are you complaining about?
What do you claim happened?
Do you really think, in the post-9/11 world, that there is any chance of any jury believing that or giving a shit about it if they do?
Just out of curiosity, where would you least like to be beaten with a nightstick and/or kicked vigorously with a boot: rank from most to least favored: __Groin __Face/Eyes __Knees __Hands __Temple __Kidney (Right or Left)
If, for legitimate law enforcement purposes, it became necessary to attach a car battery to your genitals, is there any particular brand of gel and/or shaving agent that would give you an unpleasant skin rash if applied during the prep phase?
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