Community Policing

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A Florida reporter with a hidden camera requested a complaint form from a series of police departments. You can read the results here. My favorite transcript comes from the town of Sea Ranch Lakes:

cop: We don't give you—we don't give you a form. Where do you live?

tester: I don't want to say.

officer: You don't want to say?

tester: Where are you going?

officer: You want to play hardball? We'll play hardball. I want ID.

tester: For what?

officer: I'm asking you for ID right now, that's why. Here, hand it to me. Hand it to me.

tester: Are you kidding me? Here.

officer: I said, hand me your ID. What are you doing here? This is–

tester: I came to ask you how to file a complaint.

officer: This is very suspicious.

tester: Asking how to file a complaint is suspicious?

officer: Why don't you shut up?

officer: I say this is very suspicious, that you pull in here at this time of night–

tester: Eight o'clock?

officer: You're constantly butting in.

tester: I'm constantly butting in?

Mike: Sir, I would like to leave.

officer: I would love it, but he's got your driver's license, so you're just going to have to stay.

Mike: Sir, are you detaining us?

officer: Okay, could I give you a ticket right now for improper backing.

Mike: You can do whatever you want, I suppose.

officer: Okay, that means yes, I guess you're saying, right? And for backing up, correct, yes?

Mike: I was backing up, sir, because I was leaving.

officer: But because I'm a nice guy, okay, I'm going to give you a warning. Is that fair?

Mike: Yes, sir.

officer: Okay.

[Via Wendy McElroy.]

NEXT: Cost of Dying Adjustment

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  1. I suppose that’s better than wasting one’s time filling out a form that’s headed for the Shred-It box.

  2. sage: and I side of extra sour cream.

    officer: sir, this isn’t-

    sage: and make sure it’s cooked this time, OK?

    officer: sir, do you want a ticket for improper food ordering?

    sage: there’s a ticket for that?

    officer: i just said there is, OK?

    sage: ok.

    officer: OK?

    sage: ok.

    officer: If you keep up that attitude, you’ll get yet another ticket, OK?

    sage: ok.

  3. Good thing the police didn’t find the hidden camera. Otherwise they’d be charging the dead reporter with eavesdropping.

  4. This doesn’t sound at all like the Officer Friendly who visited the schools when I was much, much younger. This officer sounds, I don’t know… faciscistical? Is that a word? Two words?

  5. And cops wonder why we hate them.

    Anybody who wants authority and a gun is suspect in my book. I’d like to be able to like cops, but crap like this makes it virtually impossible.

  6. “If you haven’t done anything wrong, you don’t have to worry.” <again>

  7. Barney Fife lives.

  8. Question: Is it Sea Ranch, or Sea Ranch Lakes? I was going to email that transcript to the city with some sarcastic comment, but I want to make sure it goes to the right place.

  9. The police state loves surveillance, probing, and spying…except when it’s used on them.

    Cheney wants everyone probed, but wants the right to duck out of an investigation of his shooting incident. Perfect.

    More video of government and corporate corruption on the good old, free internet is what is needed. Podcasts of lobbyists and legislators in mid swig/swing? Let’s see some golf and booz outings.

    Get on that waiters and waitresses of the world.

  10. According to the TV station’s website, it’s Sea Ranch. But I suppose that could be short for Sea Ranch Lakes.

  11. Thanks for the link Jesse, that’s pure gold. I seriously doubt anything will change. Perhaps some people will get new jobs and there will be a press release but that’s about it. My favorite quote is the opener:

    Most police officers are a credit to the badge, serving the community and the people who pay their salary, getting criminals off the street, making the community safer for everyone.

    In what universe? Most state troopers are human enough, but every other cop I’ve ever dealt with was a 100% certified asshole. Even the time I was filing a report when my car was vandalized, the pig was a jerk (Why did you get your tires slashed? Who did you pissed off? I know you know who did this, now tell me who it was. You’re keeping me from doughnuts. OK, I made that last one up, but I swear I could hear him thinking it.) It’s actually a requirement for the job. I knew a couple of guys who became cops. The academy trained them to be assholes. Anybody that didn’t assimilate the “cops vs. the world” mentality washed out.

  12. “This officer sounds, I don’t know… faciscistical? Is that a word?”

    “Fascistic” is the correct spelling.

  13. I loved the provocative editing, showing the officer fingering his sidearm. And how the reporter was going to “blow the lid off” potential police intimidation. Not to excuse the paranoid behavior, but it’s a rough neighborhood here in South Florida. I’m surprised and rather disappointed that the reporter didn’t get tasered, or at least pistol-whipped. That would have made an excellent viewing experience.

  14. OK, after watching the video, the reporting seems to conflate two different issues: First, the issue of some police officers being intimidating to someone asking about filing a complaint; and second, the number of police stations without a complaint form as recommended by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

    Clearly there is not complete overlap between the two groups. Much of the video is just the undercover guy simply being told by various desk sergeants or what have you that there isn’t a form. no intimidation, no maltreatment, nothing.

    In other cases, even though there isn’t a form, the officers in question are actually trying to be helpful: Where did this happen? What was the officer’s name? What occurred? Those are, well, the precise questions you would ask if someone told you they wanted to file a complaint. That it might be intimidating to have to speak to an officer rather than fill out a form, well, that might be as much the complainers problem as it is anything reflective of reality.

    Then there are three or four cases on there that are clear and simple intimidation, provocation and misbehavior. Those guys should be investigated and maybe lose their badges.

    Full disclosure: My best friend is a police chief in Ohio.

  15. Is anyone else utterly mystified that a local news station of all places would do this story?

  16. Not me. Miami is the birthplace of over-the-top local news.

  17. Uhhh, when local citizens are harrassed and beaten by police, local news covers it?

    Yeah shocking. Hope the cops pistol whip you real soon ed. You seem to enjoy it.

  18. Let’s not over-react, this is just isolated incidents. 35 separate, isolated incidents. 35 out of 38 isolated incidents. Nothing to see here, move along.

  19. A pro-police state libertarian? Hehehey.

  20. At least half the comments here are content free! You can do better faux libertarians.

    Go for 100% police state garbage! Or turn in your badges (you don’t need no steeenkeen badches) and burn your uniforms.

  21. Is anyone else utterly mystified that a local news station of all places would do this story?

    What is mystifying about it? It seems newsworthy to me.

  22. I think the troll is confusing libertarian with anarchist.
    Happens all the time.
    But who wouldn’t laugh at the sight of an undercover reporter wiggling, twitching, and peeing his pants after being tasered? Is it just me?

  23. That it might be intimidating to have to speak to an officer rather than fill out a form, well, that might be as much the complainers problem as it is anything reflective of reality.

    I don’t know Phil, I think I might be hesitant to confide in one officer about another officer. Not to endorse more bureaucracy, but I think that the complaints should go to a separate entity for investigation, maybe an internal affairs office downtown. Heading to the station of the officer that you’re about to accuse of abusing authority seems like it will be a wasted trip.

  24. That it might be intimidating to have to speak to an officer rather than fill out a form, well, that might be as much the complainers problem as it is anything reflective of reality

    The “blue wall of silence” is not a paranoid fantasy.

  25. “What is mystifying about it? It seems newsworthy to me.”

    That is what is mystifying. Local news is why they invented the word insipid.

    I would nominate this for the best local news piece ever created. If it gets enough web circulation, this could have an impact.

  26. “Is it just me?”

    Nope, it’s every punkish brownshirt everywhere, everytime. BTW, how did you get computer access in prison?

  27. Cu Cu Cu Can`t we all just get along.

  28. I don’t know Phil, I think I might be hesitant to confide in one officer about another officer. Not to endorse more bureaucracy, but I think that the complaints should go to a separate entity for investigation, maybe an internal affairs office downtown.

    Fine by me, keeping in mind that some cities or towns have all of one entire police station.

    The “blue wall of silence” is not a paranoid fantasy.

    In that case what makes you think that, if they had a form, they wouldn’t simply have you fill it out, then shitcan it?

  29. In that case what makes you think that, if they had a form, they wouldn’t simply have you fill it out, then shitcan it?

    There’s no guarantee they won’t; I’m just disagreeing with your earlier statement that not wanting to complain to another cop is “as much the complainers problem as it is anything reflective of reality”.

  30. Fine by me, keeping in mind that some cities or towns have all of one entire police station.

    I meant that the form should go to the mayor’s or city council’s offices. In other words, someone above the PD for investigation, who doesn’t have a personal stake in the outcome. Of course, knowing local politics, the form will likely be processed by a friend or family member of the officer, therefor shredded.

  31. Is anyone else utterly mystified that a local news station of all places would do this story?

    It’s sweeps month. Each local Florida news station is required to come up with the most insipid story possible. It is part of their FCC licensure process.

  32. “officer: Well, first, why don’t you tell me what happened, and I’ll tell you if somebody did something wrong to you.”

    Classic.

    If we live in a free country why do so many of these cops jump immediately to “papers, please” when somebody asks a question they don’t like?

  33. At least half the comments here are content free! You can do better faux libertarians.

    Go for 100 % content free, like amazingdrx!

  34. In that case what makes you think that, if they had a form, they wouldn’t simply have you fill it out, then shitcan it?

    This is actually pretty easy to fix. One copy goes to the police, one copy to city hall (or some other official agency), and one copy to keep for yourself.

  35. I don’t see what difference it makes if you talk to an officer or turn in a form to an officer; they are not going to investigate anonymous complaint forms, so if you turn in a form, they’ll know who you are anyway. They can also just lose/destroy any form you turn in to them. What are you going to do, complain?

    There needs to be a separate civilian board/agency that has the job to accept complaints (on paper) about the police and order investigations where appropriate.

    What do you think the police are going to do if you complain to them about themselves?

  36. “This officer sounds, I don’t know… faciscistical? Is that a word?”

    “Fascistic” is the correct spelling.

    How about “fascistastic” or “fascistacular”?

  37. A former colleague of mine was admitted to the San Francisco Police Academy last year. She was injured four or five months in and had to withdraw from that graduating class but after some of the things she experienced she’s probably not going to go back. Among the gems she shared: being trained to make it look like a handcuffed-and-obedient subject is actually resisting arrest, just in case anyone’s watching.

    Don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s only a few bad apples. The barrel’s rotten all the way through.

  38. Note the end of Part Two, and listen to the anchors’ tepid, Police-Department-sympathetic questions. Can you say FOX NEWS NETWORK audition reel?

  39. But you know, cops have such hard jobs! They have to deal with the scum of society! They put their lives on the line every day! [repeat tired refrain here] Wah! Wah! Waaaah!

    The LAPD requires only a high-school education. Actually, only a GED, which supposedly serves as proof that one has received a high school education. I wouldn’t be surprised if educational requirements were similar in South Florida departments.

    Is is any surprise that cops are assholes? And don’t even give me the excuse that there are bad apples in every barrel. How often do you hear of any “good” cops resigning over principle — because they can’t handle the corruption of their brethren in blue any longer?

    If I ever held a house party and found out there was a cop in attendance, he or she would be roundly booted from my home.

  40. There needs to be a separate civilian board/agency
    Not to sound snippy, but shouldn’t this say “citizen board/agency”?

  41. Phil, so I suppose the no-brainer response to the blue wall is not to complain in the first place, right?

  42. Phil,

    Are you honestly contesting that it was an innocent mistake that almost all of the stations had NO forms to fill out? I can think of two reasons for not having them:

    1. Not wanting to have them.

    or

    2. Having so many complaints come in that it is hard to keep the drawer stocked.

    Not sure which one is worse.

    And, well, if you’ve been abused by a cop, wouldn’t you be the least bit scared about reporting it to the guy who might be his buddy? As Ed said, that station is pretty lucky there isn’t an eavesdropping investigation taking place into a dead reporter…

  43. Are you honestly contesting that it was an innocent mistake that almost all of the stations had NO forms to fill out?

    Since I didn’t say that, no. Read what I did say, then proceed forward from there.

    Jennifer, I’m just disagreeing with your earlier statement that not wanting to complain to another cop is “as much the complainers problem as it is anything reflective of reality”.

    Actually, I said “might be,” not “is.” So long as we’re all quoting each other honestly and so forth. And, in many cases, it indeed might be.

  44. FYI It’s sea ranch lakes (I watched the video)

  45. Thanks, gilmore. Now THAT post was content-packed!

  46. Actually, I said “might be,” not “is.” So long as we’re all quoting each other honestly and so forth. And, in many cases, it indeed might be.

    I see. Just out of curiosity, how often do you suspect it is the complainer’s problem, versus how often it is reflective of reality, would you say?

  47. Thanks, Gilmore. I just fixed the post.

  48. Having been a life long skateboarder, I have virtually no respect for cops. On one occassion a cop was working off duty as rent-a-cop at a building in my city where there was a good skatespot. As I rolled up, some guy in a crappy red toyota pulls out of the parking lot and drives the wrong way down a one-way street and starts screaming at me. I wanted nothing to do with this nutjob so I picked up my board and split across the street. I look behind me and a cop in full uniform and gun is chasing me. I stop and the guy handles me like I’m an armed robber all the while screaming at me about running from the cops. He wasn’t smart enough to understand that no-one could tell he was a cop in a civillian car driving down the wrong side of the road screaming. He then claims he can take me to jail or “donate my board to charity”. This is really what he said to me: “It’s a shame I don’t skate because I have a garage full of these things”. So he takes my board and I walk home. That Monday, I call the cop station and find out he was moonlighting and that there was no record of my board being brought in. The guy was basically committing strong arm robbery! I’m 29 yrs old at this point and a professional, so I go down to the staion in my suit at lunchtime and file a complaint and talk to his Captain. The cop had to call me and appologize and return my board. 99% of cops are only one notch above the crooks they suppposedly chase. I can’t even deal with going to our neighborhood watch meetings because I can’t stand to be around them. Never Trust A Cop!

  49. The videos were fun. Worth a look.

    The Lauderhill P.D. guy was clearly the prize-winner. A

    ?officer: I’m not in your face. I’m standing on the sidewalk. It’s a free country. One more step forward, and you’ll see what happens. Take one more step forward.?

    Jesus. The guy follows him out of the station, baiting him, trying to start a fight. He reminds me of Walter in Big Lebowski. He seems like he’s got a lot of stress over his ex wife or something. The repeated ‘free country’ line was too ironic.

    I was once thrown in jail overnight for asking, ?Why?? when a cop pulled over a car I was in, and asked for the driver?s licenses of everyone in the a backseat.

    I later found out from my former NYC district-attorney lawyer that cops frequently look for ?someone to bust for something? around the end of their shifts so they can clock a hour or two of overtime every night, which pads their paychecks about 20% or more.

    Overtime isn?t always capped; the police unions negotiate this with cities/states with the, ?what if a cops shift ends while he?s in the middle of a pursuit? scenario. But it?s sort of an acknowledged extortion. I met other cops (nice guys!) who i mentioned it to and they said it was pretty common practice someplaces. I thought the unfortunate side effect of this policy was that it provides an incentive to go out and drag innocent people in on some BS.

  50. You sonsabitches! I sent that link to Hit and Run suggestions at least 24 hours ago. I also sent a link to the Police Complaint Center (policeabuse.org). Give credit where credit is due. You lousy bastages.

  51. I see. Just out of curiosity, how often do you suspect it is the complainer’s problem, versus how often it is reflective of reality, would you say?

    I’m sure I would have no idea, having no knowledge of the number of police complaints made every year, the manner in which they’re made, the manner in which they’re investigated, or how many are resolved in a manner satisfactory to the complainant. Any proportion I might offer, therefore — whether I said 50/50, 1/99, or anything else — would be even less useful than a wild-assed guess.

    But I bet you know, and you’re going to tell me. Right? I mean, otherwise you wouldn’t have asked.

  52. Is there a field besides police work where complaints would be directed to people at the same level as target of the complaint? I mean, if I had a gripe with a waiter, I wouldn’t ask for another waiter to see if my complaint was valid first, I’d ask to speak to the manager.

  53. But I bet you know, and you’re going to tell me. Right? I mean, otherwise you wouldn’t have asked.

    No, I don’t know. I’m just wondering why you brought it up at all; in the context of this thread, you seemed to be implying that people should have no problem with telling a cop that his colleague has mistreated them.

  54. This is actually pretty easy to fix. One copy goes to the police, one copy to city hall (or some other official agency), and one copy to keep for yourself.

    Why send two to two different government agencies? Give a third (or fourth!) copy to a private, disinterested third party (the ACLU maybe? or some other self-proclaimed “truth institute”).

    I can’t believe I was screwed out of props for this thread. (Nobody at Reason actually reads “Hit and Run Suggestions”, do they.)

  55. If the cops hadn’t done anything wrong, you’d think that they wouldn’t mind people asking for complaint forms.

  56. “You sonsabitches! I sent that link to Hit and Run suggestions at least 24 hours ago. I also sent a link to the Police Complaint Center (policeabuse.org). Give credit where credit is due. You lousy bastages.”

    I think there are Hit and Run complaint forms over here, somewhere….

  57. I think what’s offensive to some of us is the sudden leap to be “evenhanded” when cops are clearly abusing their authority. If a citizen doesn’t happen to be carrying a concealed camera, his version of an incident is assumed wrong, to the extent it contradicts that of the man with the gun. On the other hand, we’re supposed to give the cop every benefit of every doubt. Maybe he was just trying to be helpful when he stroked his sidearm! Maybe the order to “leave” was just a courteous suggestion! Maybe his demand for ID was just in case that reporter was suffering from amnesia; the friendly officer was merely attempting a compassionate intervention!

    In other words, the cop is always right, even when he’s threatening to shoot you for asking questions.

  58. I flatly refuse to show my ID to cops when asked. Doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but still. Never let them search my car at traffic stops either.

  59. This is some scary stuff. The cops didn’t seem to care about the complaint at all, they just wanted to intimidate the person enough to make them leave. Also, if you are attempting to file a complaint about possible abuse by a cop, it would be scary to have to tell another cop your name and address and then be taken to a private room for a “discussion” with the sergeant. I wonder how many of those complaint meetings involve the use of batons and Tasers, not to mention the constant traffic stops and administrative errors involving warrants that coincidentally would start to happen after you filed the complaint. Just another in a long line of reasons to hate the police.

  60. Wait a sec… smacky, did you request a Hit and Run suggestion form? Did you provide ID? Did you at least videotape the encounter? 😉 😉

  61. To be clear this is classic South Florida M.O. Scary because I lived in Miami for many years and very near many of these precincts…the cops seemed to be cleaning up their acts in recent years, but alas they are as dirty as always down there. Remember the Miami River Cops’ case…and the beat goes on in the justice system.

  62. Phil,

    sorry if I took

    “Much of the video is just the undercover guy simply being told by various desk sergeants or what have you that there isn’t a form. no intimidation, no maltreatment, nothing.”

    To mean that not having the form was “nothing.” That’s why I asked whether you were honestly making that argument. Since you claim that you’re not now that I’ve asked, I’ll take you at your word.

    Furthermore, I don’t think it is “conflation” when so many stations don’t have the forms and some of the stations actively intimidate. The issue is the same – they are actively discouraging the filing of complaints.

    Or did you mean something else by “conflation?”

  63. “Fascistic” is the correct spelling.

    How about “fascistastic” or “fascistacular”?

    I knew it. I knew it was two words.

  64. quasibill: My argument was that the rather simple act of telling someone, “No, we do not have a complaint form, you have to speak to Person X” — and its implications for the complaint process for citizens against police officers — is a separate issue from the behavior of the power-trippers documented elsewhere on the tape. That’s all.

    I didn’t say anything about “innocent mistakes” or anything of the sort. I said that whether or not they have a form is a different issue from whether some Marine Corps washout is bullying citizens.

  65. I can think of two reasons for not having them:
    1. Not wanting to have them.
    or
    2. Having so many complaints come in that it is hard to keep the drawer stocked.

    Here’s another:
    3. Nobody in South Florida is stupid enough to ask the police for a police complaint form.

    Seriously. If, as suggested, the forms should go to city government, citizen review board, etc., why not have those folks stock and hand out the forms.

  66. Are you honestly contesting that it was an innocent mistake that almost all of the stations had NO forms to fill out? I can think of two reasons for not having them

    Well, I can think of a third reason: those departments don’t use such forms.

    This is the fairly obvious conclusion you can draw from the video. It isn’t that they’re out of forms or won’t give them to the reporter. It’s that they don’t use complaint forms at all. And nothing requires them to.

    Listen, I hate pigs as much as the next duck, but you don’t need a conspiracy to explain this. These were not a lot of stations from the same department, they were a lot of different small departments, most of which probably get few or no complaints in a given year and so have never needed a form-based complaint process.

  67. tester: I came to ask you how to file a complaint.

    Cop: Keep your ugly, fucking, gold-bricking ass out of my beach community.

  68. How about “fascistastic” or “fascistacular”?

    Personally, I prefer “fascistriffic”.

  69. You can cus. …spit! …Throw bottles!

  70. Police are a self selected group of assholes. No decent person wants to put on a polyester uniform, strap on a gun, and go around fucking with people’s lives. It takes a special sort really.

  71. N.W.A. had it right, but the powers that be banned them from the radio…

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