Have you ever been detained by police officers, when have nothing to do with the crime and you absolutely had no idea what the cops are talking about? I have had this situation creep upon me a number of times. The first time was when I was eight, a policeman took me home for jay walking. I was guilty of that. But I think the first time I was detained, it was for stealing my own bike. Apparently there had been several bicycles stolen from the YMCA over the last month, the cop was on patrol and he saw me pedaling down the street on a bike that fit the description of one stolen the day before. I was riding down a dirt road as he approached and I suddenly sped up, making him think that I was trying to get away from him. He caught up with me a block later and used his siren to get me to stop. The cop told me to get off the bike and put my hands on top of his car. I complied and he asked ” What’s your hurry? As soon as you saw me, you took off like a bat out of burning hell, makes me think that you got something to hide. What are you running from?” I looked over the officer’s shoulder and pointed back down the dusty road at the big shaggy white dog in the middle of the red dirt road. “ Dynamite !” I said.
The policeman turned to see what I was talking about, upon sighting the Goliath canine, he felt around on his pistol belt for his pepper spray. He could see from a block away that Dynamite, was a huge dog. But the officer could also see that he was not going to need the pepper spray, the giant’s resolve was fading with each step. He took five or six steps and stopped, jumbo stood there a few seconds and then lay down. “ Speeding up to get past King Kong. Okay, I can see that. Is that your bike?” I was taught to say yes sir to all adults, and especially cops. ” Yes sir, I got it for Christmas.” The policeman seemed like he believed me, but asked me my name and address all the same. When he heard my name and address, he looked at me sideways and said “You’re kin to those Burnett boys aren’t you?” I knew who he was talking about and answered “ Yes sir, they’re my cousins.” He said “Well, if you want to stay out of jail, then don’t hang around them! You git’ on home now.” He got back in his car, and slow trailed me home. The next time was when I was fourteen and coming home from the a pinball arcade called the B.C. 1000. I was walking down a darkened street when suddenly there was a powerful spotlight on me. A voice over the police car’s p. a. system told me to freeze and put my hands over my head. I knew that it was the cops, but this was the first time they had ever drawn the guns on me. After questioning me, they let me on my way, but afterwards I began to have to growing distrust for them. A distrust that was exacerbated when I came back to Texas for the summer vacation in 1977.
I’d been living with my older sister in Los Angeles and I was visiting with my favorite Aunt and her family. We were watching a preseason football game on TV when a Sheriff’s Deputy banged on the door, my pregnant cousin Jessica answered. The Deputy rushed in, wanting to know if some guy named Freddie was in the house. We had no idea who he was talking about and Jessica was not allowing him to search the house. He proceeded to knock things off the wall and pushed her over onto the floor and started to walk through the house. When he pushed Jessica down, all the young men in the house tackled him and pinned him to the floor, the deputy lost his gun and badge in the ensuing struggle. With his promise to leave we let him up and then he charged outside in pursuit of my cousin who was the older of us. We called the police for help with lunatic cop, and they came to terrorize us some more. Now my cousin Paul Burnett was wanted for assault on a police officer, and a fleeing fugitive. The cops towed his car out of the driveway and put a warrant for his arrest for failing to cooperate with a police investigation. They did not mention the Deputy’s actions inside the house, nor did they say anything about the fact that we handed over his gun and his badge to the first officer to arrive. Again no mention of the guy that he said he was looking for, or the reason he pushed his way into my Aunt’s house. They also threatened to me to jail for a curfew violation and failure to I. D. in my Aunt’s house, when I wouldn’t have been in the street if they had not ordered me out of the house. It was at that point, that I had no trust in cops, and even later when I went into law enforcement as a career, I kept both eyes on them.
There several other incidents of “stop and harass” but the last straw came in 1994, while being on active duty for the Army at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. I had followed two friends of mine to make sure they got home safely, when I had the sudden urge to take a leak. It is not wise to whip it out on the side of the road so I held it. I heard a siren go past me and I spotted a 7-11 and proceeded to turn in and go use the bathroom, but I had to wait for a guy to come out. When he did, I went inside and starting to take care of business, the door flung open and behind it was two of Lawton’s finest with guns drawn, demanding me to put my hands up. I heard one on them say “ he really is taking a leak” . He turned his head slightly and told me to go ahead and finish up. After I zipped up my pants, they put the handcuffs on me and took me back to the scene of my alleged crime, asking along the way “Why did you run?” I said nothing, even though I had not been given a Miranda warning, and I sat in the squad car, while they paraded out their witnesses to see if I was their suspect. They had my wallet and my work I.D. card showing I was a peace officer in another state and county about 45 miles away. They ran me through NCIC, called the dispatcher in my home of record and confirmed that I did indeed work there and my credentials were valid. It took their watch commander to get me released from their custody even with two of the three of the eye-witness saying that the suspect shorter, much heavier and much darker skinned than me. The third had said that he wasn’t sure, because he didn’t get a good enough look at the robber to be certain. My unit commander got a special medical waiver to bring me to post because he need every available trainer on his assignment. I had just had back surgery 6 months prior to be chosen to do the classroom training, and I couldn’t run if my life depended on it! Anyway my Battalion commander called them the next day and gave them an earful, and they came out to my unit and apologized under duress. I’ve found that good intentions doesn’t always translate into good police work. The law in many places is black and white, “Black man vs. White cops” . That is why I say, things look different while you’re sitting in the back of a police car, especially if you are not guilty!