Opinion: A tale of two cops: An open letter

Stephen D’Abreau

Stephen D'Abreau

To the officer who pulled me over last month:

As I was patted down and my car was searched, I asked myself how a simple traffic stop in a well-known speed trap in my own hometown turned out like this. All I did was ask for a bit of clemency from my hometown police, but instead I got a phrase that I’ll always remember: “You look nervous.”

Seemingly innocuous, the phrase will always stick with me.

You see, you aren’t the only officer I know. My fiancee’s father is also a police officer. He’s a great guy, in honesty. He’s quite reserved, but a kind man who takes his duty to his community seriously. He brings honor to the badge.

But you don’t.

You contribute to the culture of intimidation, harassment and violence that police are now so known for. Minorities like myself particularly distrust the police, and all because of people like you.

You could have simply handed me my citation and let me be on my way. Instead, you called in two additional officers and told me to step out of my now surrounded vehicle.

After all your tactics of intimidation, you asked to pat me down and have my car searched for drugs and weapons. Why was I suspected?

“Because you look nervous.”

I can ask an ex-Marine cop for his permission to ask his daughter’s hand in marriage, but for a supposedly routine traffic stop I was “acting nervous.”

Perhaps I was. Perhaps being purposely intimidated by you and surrounded by your two buddies was nerve-wracking. Perhaps “consenting” to a search without probable cause or warrant might have caused anxiety.

Being surrounded by police in a traffic stop, with all my documents in order, being intimidated and harassed — I doubt any black man like me would attempt to refuse the search. Do I want to be the next one killed in a “routine traffic stop?”

It’s a convenient way to circumvent my Fourth Amendment rights. Harass me, intimidate me, surround me with additional officers, keep me there without arresting me and then have me “consent” to being searched.

Fear is just as good as a warrant I guess.

But the worst part is, when the outrage and anger of the community comes for people like you, you hide behind my soon to be father-in-law.

It’s a tale of two cops: the servant of his community, and the bully with a badge.

I want you to know two things.

First, I want you to know that I won’t fall into any sort of hatred of police – there are far too few bad ones like you to justify it. I will support the police, because they will be the cops you hide behind that ultimately bring you to account for your misdeeds.

But the second thing is that I suspect “you look nervous” for you is code for “you look black.”

I wasn’t fooled, and you won’t be able to fool everyone you hide behind for much longer.

Stephen D’Abreau is a columnist, contact him at [email protected]