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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Trouble with the Police....Dothan Style.

Rumors began to spread and as far as I am concerned, it is justly so, about a young Dothan police officer, who entirely overstepped his boundaries of serving and protecting, causing a bit of a scandal in my hometown recently. The badged culprit, as the story goes, had kicked the crutch out from underneath a 120 pound girl, letting her fall on her face and then after handcuffing her, he stuck a tazer in her back and pulled the trigger shocking and tazing this helpless, handcuffed, crippled girl. This officer who I am slightly acquainted with, appropriately lost his job, his gun, his patrol car, his badge, and fortunately, his tazer. Come to think of it, I never really like this guy in the first place. An investigation is underway, though the bad cop has been reported to already be hired on as a deputy in a rural, hick county of our state. The sheriff who hired this cruel officer is also rumored to be of mean, bulldogging disposition himself only commented that the enthusiastic young man had "only used poor judgement and just needed more experience." After the story was published 3 times in the local newspaper, naturally, a sense of notoriety hung on this character. And everyone knows that notoriety quickly turns to ridicule. -That the only way to express one's righteous indignation is, sadly, through ridicule. Many bored people will have a field day with this particular story. That is why I believe the first time I've ever spewed sweet tea from my nose from laughing so hard was while reenacting this bit of local drama with of friend of mine in front of another police officer (whom we knew would get a kick out of it). I played the victim girl with the cast and the crutches, my friend was the maniac cop with the overambitious tazer. However, little did I know that only the next day I would have my own confrontation with the Dothan City Police.

It was a peaceful day; it was a lovely day. I certainly had to spend part of it alone in nature. I headed out to this campus of this small branch college I used to take classes at. Behind this campus there are these trails winding in a forest. And in this forest sits this solemn field where I like to spend my time reading and writing, and praying and just sitting there watching the clouds shift by and the treetops glisten in the sun. This is my solace in the midst of my hometown humdrum environment. Every person should have such a place.

After an hour or two, I decided to fetch myself something to drink in one of the buildings on campus. I left my books behind in this field and followed the trails until I came to the campus. I ended up being sidetracked by checking my email at the computer lab. It isn't long sitting there at a computer until a TSUD security guard walks in and asks to speak with me outside. I comply and follow the rentacop out the hallway towards the door. This renatcop is a tall, lanky middleaged black man with a large graying fro that humorously made his security farmer's cap hover over his head. I was acquianted with this person. Had seen him numerous times before on campus. I had a good reason to believe that he didn't like me. He always would wince at me as I drove onto campus. Once or twice he gotten on to me about driving just a pinch too fast through the parking lot. And then only a couple of weeks ago, when I also happened to be in Dothan, he slipped a parking ticket on my car because I don't have a decal nor was my car pointing the proper direction in the parking lane. I did with that ticket what I did with all the other parking tickets I've gotten from universities I'm not longer enrolled at, I ripped it up. My relationships with renatcops has never been good. So I knew whatever topic he had to discuss with me wasn't going to be a delightful one. I walked out the door and to my amazed curiousity stood another rentacop and two real bonafide Dothan City Police officers. What on earth could they want with me?

It seemed that the real police officers knew who called the shots here. The Dothan Police did all the talking. The rentacops only spoke if spoken to. An interesting dynamic to observe if ever you get the chance like me.

1st cop (spoken very condescendingly): Sir, we have a couple of questions to ask you. Are you enrolled at this university? And let me see some ID.
Myself (handing my license to him): No sir, though I was a few years ago.
1st cop: Well, did you KNOW that you are trespassing right now? That you, not being a student or a faculty member are not allowed on these premises at any time?
Myself: No sir, I honestly never knew that. (Which is the honest truth.) I've come here often and never knew that. What about the trails?
2nd cop: The trails are free to the public, but the campus is off limits to nonstudents and non faculty
1st cop: Yes, what happends to you is up to the security. But you can be charged right now with a misdemeanor for trespassing. Or if they don't want to do that they can be lenient and just ban you from the trails too.
Myself (confused): Alright.
2nd cop: What I want to know...is that your car parked beside the trails?
Myself: Yes, sir.
2nd cop (superciliously): Do you mind sharing with me why you have a gun in your vehicle?
Myself (grinning): That...that is a toy pistol that was part of a Halloween costume.
1st cop: And the axe in the floorboard? Which looks pretty real to me?
Myself(nodding): Yes, it is a real axe. It was for Halloween as well.

They both looked puzzled. The gun looked nothing like a real gun nowadays. It was a model of an 18th century flintlock pirate pistol. Though the axe was a real, double-bladed one.

Myself: You see, a friend of mine for Halloween was a pirate and he borrowed the toy pistol. I was a Viking and I used the real thing.
1st cop: Boy, you really do go all out for Halloween.
Myself(seeing the break in the seriousness, I laughed with them): Yes.
2nd cop: Do you know how much trouble you can be in carrying what looks like a gun onto a school campus? And the fact that you are trespassing?
Myself: Yes, I see. That is understandable. Since I am being kicked off this campus, can I go and sign off from my email inside?
1st cop: Yes, one of the security will escort you.

It was that same goofy security guard who had asked to see me in the first place. And as we walked inside to my amazement he spoke: "Sir....sir, I want you to know that I had nothing to do with calling the police. It was the other new guy. I believe that they are blowing this way out of proportion. As far as I'm concerned you can come back on this premises anytime." And at this, I recognized an ally, someone on my side. I smiled and I thanked him and told him the reasons I like to come to this campus and the trails, that its the only place in Dothan where you get a deep sense of serenity. We walked outside and the cops were talking to the head of security on the phone who was going to make the final decision of what happens to me. He was just as laid-back as my ally rentacop saying that if I was respectful than I have an open invitation to come back to the trails and to the computer labs and campus anytime. In other words, the policemen didn't know what they were talking about to begin with. But that didn't stop them with their stupidity. They dropped the trespassing scare. They shifted their focus.

1st cop: By law, all toy guns should have an orange cap on the end? Yours does not. Do you see how much trouble you can be in?
2nd cop: Now, we're not trying to bully you or ask for a bribe we just want you to know what this looks like. I mean, with all the shootings going on, if the Feds heard about this...they wouldn't take this lightly.
Myself: Understandably.
2nd cop: I mean, do you see where we are coming from? Some nonstudent out in the woods or on campus with weapons in his car. No, the Feds wouldn't like the look of this at all. And the statement, "Oh, I forgot" just wouldn't cut it.

Contrary to what they were trying to impose on me, I was not afraid. I was not even angry. There was something, in a very wierd sense, fun about this whole interrogation. I just held my head up and acted as respectively and demurely as possibly. Knowing that it would just blow over if I gave them their soapbox of idiocy and kept calm and noble looking them very confidently in the eyes. Finally after enough blah, blahing they departed. I said, "Thank you" courteously, but assuredly. And walked off towards the trails to collect my books.

Disclaimer: Not all the policemen in Dothan, AL are this way. I know two very good men who are of the Dothan City Police. And in no way do I wish to allow these bad apples to represent the whole. I hate the fact that I must reflect the negative more glaringly than the positive.


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