The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

My Encounter With The Lake Geneva Police, pt.2

with 2 comments

(continued from yesterday…)

I’ve not made any attempt over the last few years to hide my skepticism regarding the police.  I even wrote herein about an encounter I had with a Michigan State Police officer five years ago.  I’ve had a pair of speeding tickets since then, so my personal business with the police has been minimal.  What happened in Lake Geneva came well before any of the other highly publicized police disasters of last summer, and I’m grateful that my story is little else than a blip on a radar screen; still, it was my experience, and it was distasteful, and I think it’s worth writing about in the context of the current state of the police in our country.

My geographic location and reading habits are most responsible for my skepticism in regard to law enforcement.  Lake County has been rattled by several police corruption and forced confession cases the last few years, one of which directly impacted a person with whom I work.  Another case now appears to be tagged with police manufacturing evidence to impugn someone, and just two weeks ago another person who was falsely convicted based on a forced confession was released.  My tax dollars are wasted because of these episodes, which really only amount to police wanting to look like they are doing their jobs and getting whatever numbers they need to please mayors who are hitching political campaigns to being tough on crime regardless of the legitimacy of the law enforcement tactics that get them their numbers.  Add to these other cases I’ve read about in The New Yorker:  another forced confession in the Chicago area that was recently resolved, a recent article about police killings in Alburqueque, NM (Rolling Stone covered the same issue the same week as The New Yorker), the constitutionality of stop-and-frisk policies, and malicious prosecution of an innocent teenager.  Pile on what has recently been covered in The New Yorker and The Washington Post regarding civil seizure, and then the jackass who got national attention when he wrote I’m a Cop.  If You Don’t Want to Get Hurt, Don’t Challenge Me, and I’ve got to wonder:  How can a person not have a healthy amount of skepticism for law enforcement?

A few days after the unpleasantness on the shores of Geneva Lake, I reviewed the video I shot on my phone.  I discovered exactly how many times I had asked Officer Buchburger to identify herself (five), and was able to hear again what Officer Ward had said to me.  One of his first comments was that I would have to lower my phone because it could be a weapon.  He also threatened to break it if I didn’t comply.  His aggressiveness presented two problems.  One, the phone is not a weapon, but Officer Ward had probably been trained to say exactly what he said so that he would have a modicum of defense if he was brought under investigation for anything that may have happened during the encounter.  It was obviously a catchphrase of sorts that would keep him safe regardless of how ridiculous it seemed.  What’s more, police officers don’t have the right to threaten harm to a person or a person’s property to get them to stop asserting their rights.  Even if the phone had been a weapon, it wouldn’t have been broken at his whimsy; it would have been confiscated and put into evidence.

Later during the encounter, Officer Ward told me, “I’m gonna ask you again to keep your hands out of your pockets.  You could have a weapon.”  I did have my right hand in my pocket, as is my habit at times when I speak with people, but he was being antagonistic.  He’d never asked me to take my hand out in the first place.  After viewing the video, I was left wondering why he had never asked me if I had a weapon, or why he never frisked me.  Not that either approach would have yielded any results—I didn’t have a weapon.  It’s obvious in hindsight, though, that this is all de regueur for the police to try to escalate episodes to justify force.

I was incensed enough after watching my video to register a complaint against Officer Ward.  I found lots of tips online about how to do that, and also uncovered some unexpected things about the public’s reaction to the antagonistic police state that has emerged in our country.  It turns out that YouTube is flooded with videos people have uploaded that show police misbehavior, antagonism, and illegal brutality.  It doesn’t surprise me that such an ocean of video exists—I just never had cause to search for them.  I’ve come to think of this trend as a populace reaction to the television show Cops!  Furthermore, there are fledgling organizations like Copwatch that were founded to do exactly what its name says.  Judging by the tons of videos they have on YouTube, the folks at Copwatch aren’t popular with the police.



Written by seeker70

March 18, 2015 at 6:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. It’s my impression that being a police officer is an incredibly difficult position. The risk of violence is relatively high, most interactions with people come under stressful circumstances, and many people have a narcissistic streak so that they believe they can do whatever they want, damn the laws and effects towards others.
    That being said, much of the difficulty under normal circumstances is exacerbated by their behavior. If the encounter starts aggressively from the police authority side, it’s no surprise that the immediate response is defensiveness. The other issue is lack of consistency, again, if you feel that you are being treated differently than someone else, of course you are going to react defensively.
    Current police members seem less likely to be the historical bully figures, but it is a position of power, and it is easily abused. Proliferation of cameras and phones make documentation of poor behavior easier, but certainly don’t stop it, however, hopefully that transparency will lead to longer term changes. Of course, those changes need to come from both parties (not in your case, just in general), and I don’t see that happening.


    March 18, 2015 at 7:19 am

  2. Stop teasing…just write it and share!  Man, your suspense better pay off!!!!

    Cory Fosco

    March 18, 2015 at 8:54 am

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