Saturday Bag o’ Attitude

attitude bag 2I remember the last time a cop pulled me over for a chickenshit offense. He’d set me up by matching speeds and driving line abreast in the lane to my right, then suddenly slamming on his brakes for a pedestrian I couldn’t see because the cop was blocking my view. I rolled on, and as soon as the pedestrian stepped back onto the curb the cop hit the lights, ran me down, and gave me a ticket. I was angry and didn’t hide it. Later on, when I looked at the ticket, I saw the words “VERY bad attitude!” written at the bottom.

Like my attitude was any of his business. I contested the ticket because of the cop’s remark, but didn’t get anywhere with that. People looked at me like I had two heads. Really? Am I the only person who doesn’t think we’re supposed to bow & scrape when a cop pulls us over for some bullshit deal?

I haven’t said anything about Sandra Bland because from the get-go I feared it would turn out she really did commit suicide in her jail cell, and now it’s starting to look as if she might have. But the chain of events that led to her death started with the cop who set her up for a bogus traffic stop, and as far as I’m concerned it’s all on him.

Sandra Bland was driving down the road, doing nothing wrong. The cop passed her in the opposite direction, flipped a U-turn and aggressively muscled right up behind her, then flashed her and pulled her over when she moved to the right to let him by. Damn right she had an attitude. I sure as hell would’ve, and so would you. When did that become a crime?

Something’s gone way wrong with police professionalism. Maybe it was never there in the first place. It’s certainly not there now. They treat us all as perps, white and brown and black alike, and expect us to grovel. Of course we’re a hell of a lot more likely to be beaten or tased if we’re black or brown, but plenty of white motorists get the treatment as well.

Keep that smart phone handy, peeps. Video every encounter you have with the police, and if you see someone else being roughed up by a cop, pull over and tape it. These taped encounters are making a difference. They’re going viral, popping up on the six o’clock news, and making people think.

Ten, fifteen years ago, most people would react to stories about cops beating people up during traffic stops with a shrug. They’d say that’s what you get for showing an attitude. Today not so much. More and more of us are saying bullshit, the cops are the problem, not our attitudes. We owe this sea change to smart phones.

© 2015, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.


6 thoughts on “Saturday Bag o’ Attitude

  • Absolutely right about the importance of cell phones in recording encounters with police. These videos will change police behavior, but only if everyone is persistent about recording.

    As for Sandra Bland, I’ve been convinced from the first she was set up. And now the Texas cops are telling us she ate marijuana in her jail cell? Really? I wasn’t aware that was on the menu. Since they took everything away from her, where would she be getting all that dope? And who hangs herself with a plastic garbage bag? Who would even think that would work? Sorry, but this one stinks to high heaven.
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  • I think the marijuana accusation is part of the effort to slime Sandra and make it look like she brought this on all herself. The media seems very willing to play along with the cops on that, as they are with the biker killings in Waco, uncritically passing on whatever the cops tell them. And now this Hillary Clinton hit piece in the NYT! You can’t believe ANYTHING you read, see, or hear on the news any more.

  • I don’t know if you already are aware of it, but there is a site I follow called Popehat, and they talk about all of this stuff. The fact is there is little or no oversight of value on the police, and they absolutely can and DO murder citizens everyday with little or no penalty. It is past time we stood up to police abuse, intimidation, and thuggery.

  • James, I follow Popehat on Twitter. Radley Balko used to track police abuse around the country but he’s less active now. There are other Twitter accounts that have stepped into the gap, though. For years now, a Santa Monica blogger named Digby has been writing intelligently about how we interact with police, and the cop “respect mah authoritah” mentality. Her blog is called Hullabaloo, URL

  • Paul,
    While California has enforcement problems, and the occasional rogue cop, it is not fair to compare law enforcement here with what goes on in many other jurisdictions, especially the rural South. As a former fighter jock, you, more than most, understand exchange rates. For example, compare the number of unarmed minorities killed by LE to the number of LE killed by armed minorities, especially in Calif. And yes, it is a valid comparison because every cop knows the threat when he engages. It is a part of his situational awareness. In simple terms, tell me the threat and I’ll tell you my tactics. Threat assessment is as much a part of law enforcement as in any form of combat, so when a cop encounters a bad attitude, his assessment changes. That’s a very human reaction.

  • Yeah, but … changing one’s assessment of the threat is one thing, going nuclear is another. Too many cops go nuclear, and it happens in California on a regular basis, as it does elsewhere. I admire good policing. It’s very necessary, and I have no illusions about the inherent goodness of the perps they stop. Good policing. Not the kind that’s been so much in the news lately, which seems more appropriate to a third world hellhole than one of the great nations of the world.

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