Around 5:30 Thursday night, I was on my way to the fairgrounds to volunteer at a booth. Going south on San Pedro from Lomas, the car in front of me suddenly stopped when a police man jumped out from behind an unmarked car with a radar gun. Several other cars had also been pulled over.
It surprised me, because the guy didn’t seem to be going fast. I pulled into a lot to park and walked down the street to find a small paper speed limit sign “25 mph” taped over the regular “35 mph” speed limit sign. Many of the drivers were probably on their normal commute down San Pedro and didn’t even see the new sign.
I parked and walked over to the police officers with the radar guns.
Jill: “Hi, what’s going on?”
Older Cop: “We’re stopping speeders because people need to slow down; the speed limit has been lowered for the fair.”
Jill: “That makes sense. It gets pretty congested up the road. But those 25 mph signs are really hard to notice. If the goal is to PREVENT collisions and protect pedestrians, why not put up a big sign near the beginning of the street that blinks, like they do for construction zones?”
Older Cop 1: That’s not our job. Talk to Your Mayor Marty about that; that’s his thing (sarcastic tone).
Younger Cop 2: “Hah, what do you want? Do you want us to put out clowns and balloons, too?”
He gets into my personal space with his arms back, chest pushed out like he wants to fight me.
Jill: (pretty shocked by the immediate snide comments and confrontational behavior) No, I wasn’t saying clowns and balloons. I’m just thinking it would be better and easier to stop people from speeding ahead of time instead of catching one out of thirty of them after the fact. In fact, even if you parked regular police cars here instead of marked cars, people would see them and be warned to slow down.”
Cop 1: We don’t want to warn them; we want to stop them.
Cop 2 to me: Ah, You’re just pissed off because you got stopped for speeding. People need to learn how to drive.
Jill: I agree with you about people “learning to drive,” and no, I *did not* get stopped and I wasn’t speeding!
Cop 2: Well, you’re just a fool like the rest of them.
Jill: You’re calling me a “fool”? How dare you call me – or anybody - names! This is pointless, what you’re doing is entrapment. You don’t seem to care about public safety at all.
Cop 1: Imitates me, laughs and jumps out in the street to stop another car.
Jill: You seem to be enjoying this.
Cop 1: We are. We’re enjoying it because we’re getting paid overtime. Ha ha! Overtime pay!
Jill: If you have any ideas about who I can talk to, maybe I can get them to put warning signs up so drivers will slow down before they get here.
Both cops mocking and imitating me.
Cop 1: You’re an idiot. Do you want to talk to my supervisor?
Jill: Did you just call me an IDIOT? Yes, I do want to talk to your supervisor.
(Cop calls him on the phone)
Supervisor shows up, strides over and immediately starts barking at me in a threatening manner. When I tried to speak, he broke in and asked me a question. When I tried to answer again, he’d interrupt to say “Huh? Huh? Huh?!” so I couldn’t talk. I was shocked and horrified at this point. If I’d been any more upset, or drunk or mentally unstable, I would have punched this guy in the face. This is exactly what my older brother used to do to me to turn me into a raving, violent lunatic.
Instead, I decided it would be best if I just walked away. I started to walk away and the younger cop lunged out and grabbed my arm and squeezed it hard.
Jill: LET GO OF ME NOW. DO NOT TOUCH ME AGAIN. I AM LEAVING NOW.
Cop: Good, get lost.
Sure, I should have dropped it before I did. I let them get to me and I regret that. But why did they want to egg me on? How would things have been different if the first policeman had said, “Yeah, big warning signs would be good. I’ll pass that along. But radar guns are another intervention and we have to do everything we can to slow the traffic down here for the safety of pedestrians. I’m sure you can see that.” I would have walked away calmly at that point.
I’ve seen this macho, inciting response from police before; approaching homeless, intoxicated or mentally ill people, coming into the middle of a dispute, with an antagonistic, bullying “us and them” attitude and immediately escalating the situation. Several times, I’ve heard really offensive profanity and racist terms used by cops on arrival to a volatile situation. This has to stop.
There are other police officers who see and treat the public as human beings and take their jobs - preserving peace and public safety - seriously. They enter emotional situations with a calming, mediating presence. You feel right away that they are sensitive, intelligent leaders; that they are there to help and protect you and deserve your respect. These are not hard skills to learn. I have no idea how these good cops stomach working with the bad ones.
Instead of simply hiring hundreds more cops to “stop crime” in Albuquerque, I’d like to see resources put into improving training, raising standards, promoting good cops into leadership roles to train and mentor others, and raising pay to attract good candidates. More of the same is just scary.