Recently, a California website ran an e-mail forum (a question and
answer exchange) where the topic was "Policing the Community." One of
the civilian email participants posed the following question:
"I would like to know how it is possible for police officers to
continually harass people and get away with it?"
From the "other side" (the law enforcement side) a cool cop with a
sense of humor replied:
It is not easy. In California we average one cop for every 2,000
people. About 60% of those cops are on patrol, where we do most of the
harassing. One-fifth of that 60% are on duty at any given moment and
are available for harassing people. So, one cop is responsible for
harassing about 10,000 residents. When you toss in the commercial,
business and tourist locations that attract people from other areas,
sometimes you have a situation where a single cop is responsible for
harassing 20,000 or more people each day.
A ten-hour shift runs 36,000 seconds. This gives a cop one second to
harass a person, and three-fourths of a second to eat a donut AND then
find a new person to harass. This is not an easy task. Most cops are
not up to it, day in and day out. It is just too tiring. What we do is
utilize some tools to help us narrow down those people which we harass.
They are as follows:
PHONE: People will call us up and point out things that cause us to
focus on a person for special harassment. "My neighbor is beating his
wife" is a code phrase we use. Then we come out and give special
harassment. Another popular one on a weeknight is, "The kids next door
are having a loud party."
CARS: We have special cops assigned to harass people who drive. They
like to harass the drivers of fast cars, cars blasting music, cars with
expired registration stickers and the like. It is lots of fun when you
pick them out of traffic for nothing more obvious than running a red
light. Sometimes you get to really heap the harassment on when you find
they have drugs in the car, are driving drunk, or they have an
RUNNERS: Some people take off running just at the sight of a police
officer. Nothing is quite as satisfying as running after them like a
beagle on the scent of a bunny. When you catch them you can harass them
CODES: When you can think of nothing else to do, there are books that
give ideas for reasons to harass folks. They are called "Codes" Penal,
Vehicle, Health and Safety, Business and Professional Codes, to name a
few. They spell out all sorts of things for which you can really mess
with people. After you read the code, you can just drive around for a
while until you find someone violating one of these listed offenses and
harass them. Just last week I saw a guy smash a car window. Well, the
code says that is not allowed. That meant I had permission to harass
It is a pretty cool system that we have set up, and it works pretty
well. We seem to have a never-ending supply of folks to harass. And we
get away with it. Why? Because the good citizens who pay the tab
actually like the fact that we keep the streets safe for them.
Next time you are in my town, give me a single finger wave. That will
be a signal that you wish for me to take a little closer look at you,
and then maybe I'll find a reason to harass YOU.
Looking forward to meeting you!