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Hands over your head - cellophane
the story of an invisible girl
renniekins
renniekins
Hands over your head
After Friday night's softball game (which we won, 11-3! and at which I scored 2 runs!), a bunch of us went to the bar. The conversation turned to a story in the media, a videotape which had been shown on the news depicting a police officer beating a suspect. The conversation centered around whether or not the officer had used "unnecessary" force.

I hadn't seen the footage myself, so I just sat back and listened to the conversation. I restrained myself from saying my usual quote, "If you see me being beat up by the police, put down the video camera and come help me."

The guy who brought up the subject felt the beating had been unnecessary, or at least that it had gone on too long. The other main participant in the conversation was an ex-cop. He felt the officer's actions justified. It was interesting that both guys talking were black, so race wasn't a factor in the conversation at all.

The ex-cop spoke passionately. He said that when you are confronted with a suspect, and ask him to show you his hands, and he doesn't, you have to act immediately and forcefully. Because you never know when he might have a concealed weapon, you never know when your life is in danger. You have to behave as though it always is. He said that any of us, if we are told to put our hands up by an officer, will do it. Because we have nothing to hide. If somebody doesn't, he may very well have something to hide. He may very well be about to try to shoot somebody.

The other guy asked, why didn't the officer stop once the guy was down? Why didn't he just cuff him and stop beating him?

The ex-cop admitted that adrenalin is definitely a factor, and sometimes it's hard to immediately turn off the aggression and forcefulness that is necessary for survival. But he also said that if the suspect is still struggling, putting him into handcuffs isn't nearly as easy as most people think. If somebody doesn't want to be cuffed, it's darn near impossible to do without force. He used me as an example, because I am approximately half his size. He said, even her, if she doesn't want me to put handcuffs on her, I wouldn't be able to do it alone. If a suspect resists, you have to forcefully subdue them before you can restrain them. (I added, "It's true. I'm very squirmy.")

It was an interesting conversation. When it was through, I said to the ex-cop something along the lines of, "That may be true. But I will tell you one thing. There has been one time in my life when a police officer had a gun trained on me, and told me to put my hands in the air. And I couldn't bring myself to do it. Because I was innocent. It was like...putting my hands into the air for a cop seemed somehow to put me in the category of a criminal. I was too weirded out, it felt like something out of a television show. I just couldn't raise my hands above my head. It was too weird, too surreal, too crazy. I put them palm-out, near my sides, to make it clear to him that I wasn't carrying anything. But I couldn't bring myself to put them over my head."

He stared at me, with a fascinated look in his eyes. I could tell, he'd never thought of a perspective like that. "Thanks for sharing that," he said. And I don't know if I'm unique in that attitude I had that day, and I don't know if today I would respond the same way. I know it wasn't the product of conscious thought: it was a basic reaction that I could barely put into words years later. I was scared; I knew I should comply, but maybe it was something about dignity. Maybe it was something about humanity. I'm not sure.

I did make it clear I had nothing to hide, which is what they really wanted to know, the officers facing me that day. Luckily they didn't give me a hard time, and they didn't feel it necessary to use additional force -- my gesture was sufficient for them. Because I'm not sure what I would have done if they'd demanded exact compliance....I was too freaked out by the situation to behave rationally.
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