Why Cops Make Many People Feel Unsafe
I’ve always avoided cops. The simple fact is that they give me anxiety. I can be taking my kids to school, doing absolutely nothing wrong, and if a cop pulls behind me I’m instantly anxious. I know they are supposed to make people feel safe. But the opposite is true for me. And I logically know all cops can’t be bad. But my physiological reaction overrides any logic. Or does it? Personal experiences are powerful. Considering the traumatic experiences I’ve had relating to law enforcement throughout my life, maybe my fear of law enforcement is perfectly logical.
By the time I was 5 years old I had witnessed the police beat and arrest my father because he was a member of a motorcycle club, the same club I belong to today. I also witnessed my father shoot himself in the head with a .22 magnum Derringer. And although he didn’t die, he lived nearly 30 more years, the police stormed the house with their guns drawn. That imagery is still imprinted.
When I was 8 years old my cousin was sexually assaulted by a cop. The cop was sent to prison for almost a decade. But in my opinion, that’s not enough time for an individual sworn to serve and protect.
When I was 9 years old my father’s clubhouse in Portland was illegally raided unannounced by the Portland Special Investigations Division and an officer was shot and later died. A club brother was initially convicted and sentenced to prison until he was released in 1981 when a dirty cop snitched out the SID and revealed that they had lied to get the warrant and were there to plant drugs. In fact, the officer that died had drugs in his pocket that were later removed by other dirty cops.
For many years now I’ve witnessed overwhelming police presence, sometimes military-style, at motorcycle club events. This is even true of political gatherings. In fact, it used to happen in Washington State during biker day at the Capitol before an anti-profiling law was passed. And it still happens in other places coast-to-coast.
The community that I have been associated with through family and membership is viewed as an enemy by many police. Even though motorcycle club associations are protected by the 1st Amendment, many are treated as if they are criminals. As a member of a class of people viewed as enemies, the presence of law enforcement more often than not generates an expectation of discrimination or harassment, not safety.
Since the law addressing motorcycle profiling passed in Washington State, I don’t have near the anxiety when I see a cop while riding my bike. Even if I do get pulled over, it is far more likely to be a legitimate stop with no element of profiling. And when discriminatory stops do occur, the law provides a clear way to fight back.
Until the mindset of law enforcement advances through changes in policy and training, the divide between law enforcement and the citizenry will continue to widen and deepen. This divide lays the foundation for violence against citizens, the use of deadly force, and general instability. This should provide enough motivation to participate in the grassroots effort to combat motorcycle profiling through mandatory policy changes and training.