Stopped for Cause
Mar 12, 2015 06:08PM ● Published by Stephen Dupree
The Knoxville Police Department made it their special mission to thoroughly disabuse me of those crazy ideas and concepts I had come home with. The primary means they used to achieve their goal was traffic stops. Whenever they had a reason or, I was acting suspiciously by not giving them a reason or, they were bored because they had solved every crime in the area, they would pull me over. For reasons that had nothing to do with reality, those stops frequently *required* as many as 20 officers.
Now, being fresh out of the military and believing that idiocy of the first paragraph, I would speak respectfully to the officer who pulled me over. I would do as requested without bitching. I usually rode a motorcycle in those days so for a lot of the stops I ended up standing with my arms spread and hands on the police car and my feet spread as well. My speech was liberally peppered with official military "yessirs" and "nosirs" in my replies to such inquiries as they made.
One particular occasion, my bike kept quitting on me so I pulled over to ascertain why. I quickly figured out what was going on and rectified it but an officer pulled up behind me and on went the blue lights. I was being arrested for reckless driving (No, I am not making up a word of this). For some reason it takes a long time to arrest someone for reckless driving so I stood for quite a while at the officer's vehicle as I describe above. Additional cars and officers just kept showing up. Something about my respectful tone must have convinced them I was hiding some Ted Bundy-esque behavior because at one point, there were at least 12-15 cars and even more officers. So, I'm standing there, I had been nothing but respectful and done only what they told me to. One of the officers, not the one who initially pulled up, walks around behind me and out of the line of sight of most of the other officers, jabs me in the lower back in the general area of my right kidney with his nightstick. I was a bit naive but I was not stupid. I knew that what he wanted was for me to react enough to give him/them an excuse to beat the shit out of me. I flinched, but my hands stayed on the top of the car. I was eventually taken to jail where I spent the weekend. Later when I went before a judge, he threw out the charge and appeared to be annoyed at the whole thing.
Imagine what could have happened if I had reacted as apparently desired. What if I threw a punch or grabbed the officer? I am 6'5" tall and weighed about 210-220lbs in those days. There were plenty of nightsticks there so I could have taken a pretty severe beating. But since the officer that poked me was away from the others and I was not restrained, I could have grabbed him. There is a chance I could have gotten the better of him. If that had happened, I could easily have found myself shot, a lot. Unless the officer confessed, no investigation would have revealed his actions. Most likely, the incident would have been determined to be a justified beating/shooting of a violent detainee.
When I heard the Department of Justice report on the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO, that particular experience with the police was the filter through which I received their analysis of the crime. Even with the crowd of officers attending my bogus arrest, as near as I could tell, there are only two people who know about that little kidney punch trick — I and the officer who did it.
I do not know if Darren Wilson did or said something to induce Mr. Brown to attack him. I am not claiming to have any such insider knowledge. I am claiming to understand how the report might not have all of the relevant information in it. I am claiming that the report does not say to me that Darren Wilson is innocent. It says only that the DOJ is unable to prove that the crime of murder occurred. I'm guessing that most of you reading this have a different police filter. Your experiences might have been all positive and professional. I'm happy for you. But your experiences do not discount or invalidate my experiences. I didn't hear about the abuse I described, it happened to me.
I believe the KPD to be a different organization now, operating in a different time. Now there are cameras everywhere and there have been obvious changes in the local power structure. But if one officer wants to incite you to violence, the professionalism of the larger group is not going to comfort you (or your survivors). The idea that Brown arbitrarily decided that day to fight the police simply does not ring true. My own experiences lead me to believe that if he made that decision in that moment, it was a response to provocation.
— Stephen Dupree, Opinion Columnist