To The Daily Sun,
Sometimes things just need to be addressed out loud, based in principle and truth, to hopefully create a proactive dialogue on how to go about de-escalating a growing problem. This is a condensed version of an article which was sent to elected state and federal officials prior to being sent to the press:
Far too often we are hearing about questionable police actions. That one sentence no doubt has already created an emotional reaction. My only request would be to read this as rationally as possible, do research on your own, and discern for yourself what is right. It should also be made clear that all officers are not acting questionably.
Stories of police coercion, deception, outright lying, intimidation, harassment and overstepping their "authority" are becoming so commonplace that it can be described as cancer: "If you haven't dealt with it yourself, you know someone who has." It's become a semi-silent epidemic.
Some claim cops are arrogant, racist, "trigger happy" or prone to bullying. Others say society has gone nuts and a cop takes his life in his hands when they depart for work each day.
Becoming a police officer is a choice. Like teachers, most go into the field with good intentions (hopefully) yet soon find out that they are just order followers, and their particular principles are not relevant. They are there to follow orders, moral or immoral, just or unjust, logical or not, and soon become jaded. "I don't make the laws, just enforce them" is a common response when a legitimate question is raised.
The driving force behind finally writing this article is an ongoing situation regarding a 28-year-old young man that I know well. In mid-April he was driving home on his motorcycle at 9 p.m. and was pulled over. According to the young man, he was informed it was because the corporal couldn't read his stock license plate from 50 feet away. The police report stated he was pulled over for not signaling while passing a van taking a right turn. The officer smelled alcohol and started the sequence of events for that.
Both parties agree that the officer was informed that this person had sustained a head injury, has a weak right side, speech impediment, etc. The young man was asked to take a breath test, after four separate times blowing into the machine, the highest result was 0.045 which was the only one documented in the report. After being placed in cuffs and while inside the cruiser, the cop suggested taking a blood test. The young man stated that up to this point he had politely done everything that he was asked and would prefer to get along with the night. Four hours later he was allowed to call for a ride. Thirty days later his license was suspended.
After the questionable stop, I can understand the officer's initial suspicion after smelling alcohol. Once being advised of the limitations of a head injury and the breath machine reading a high of 0.045 after four attempts, why continue? More disturbing is the prosecutor continuing on with it.
Possibly it's time for a display of integrity by the department by simply stating: "A mistake was made and has gotten out of hand, please accept our reimbursement for your expenses and your license back."
This has affected members of his family, friends and his job is in jeopardy. The financial expenses incurred to date are in the thousands. It has impacted every area of his life. Liberty to get around doing everyday things has been taken, not to mention the psychological damage to one whom already suffers from brain trauma. This all occurred just for driving home at a decent hour, legally sober on a Friday night through Ossipee.
People hearing of this are in disbelief, although many have a similar story to counter with. My initial statement after hearing this story was, "It's a good thing he is good-natured. Imagine what could have happened if the cop pulled over someone who had just got in a fight with their wife." Had that happened and an altercation resulted, would we have heard the true story? My guess is probably not, and not at all unless it happened between folks of different skin types, the cop lost, or a death.
Should you disagree or think "that would never happen here in New Hampshire", a quick search of the names: Bruce Mckay, Jeremy Charron, Les Lord, and Scott Phillips may help you believe.
The concern is how this cop is able to be cop, judge, jury and executioner; revoking a license based on suspicion. The claim will inevitably arise that he "was just doing his job and the DMV is responsible for taking the license." To both I respond untrue. When one sets motions into action, well aware of the results, that person is responsible. This young man will be without a license for 45 days (assuming the court date isn't postponed) before going in front of a judge. This "sentence" prior to entering a court, was based on opinion and disregard of the only objective assessor, the breath machine. Guilty and sentenced until proven innocent, for real. It's not right or moral, nor is it an isolated incident occurring in the "live free or die" state.
With this system and mentality why do people ask why things are happening the way they are? Until there is a change, incidents like Ferguson and Freddie Gray unfortunately will continue. I believe it is time to start treating all people as though they are people, with dignity, respect and a return to reciprocity and civility. The "us vs. them" mentality is breeding discontent and distrust, making our society a sketchy place to be. ALL officers aren't bad, nor are all people.
The time has passed for ignoring this issue and accepting "that's just the way it is." It's wrong, unjust and immoral.
- Category: Letters
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