My Saturday evenings
have been lulled into repetition as of late. I typically wake up from a nap
either to the end of Cheaters or the beginning of COPS. Both reality television
programs garner pretty good ratings in the southern Ohio area by capitalizing
on the guilt-ridden pleasures of voyeurism. While the Cheaters camera crew follows
around jilted lovers and is rife with the hilarity of monogamy gone wrong, COPS
takes a less comedic stance by pitting the viewer in the drivers seat of a police
cruiser and taking them out for a night on patrol in the gritty streets of Any
how I would react to being the unsuspecting star of either show. I had found
myself playing out a myriad of hypothetical situations, all of which end in
me cursing out Cheaters host Joey Greico in reaction to my girlfriend confronting
my mistress and I with a camera crew.
number of situations that could land me on COPS is significantly lower, thanks
to my virtually spotless criminal record. The only imagined scenario I had on
tap for COPS is getting my door knocked down in a failed attempt to apprehend
some dangerous prey. After all, COPS would be the last television show that
Cincinnati would invite into its precincts during a time when alleged race-based
police slayings and the resulting riots are such nationwide news that they warranted
a Stone Phillips hosted Dateline special, Right?
Recently the news
ran a blurb about COPS being invited to film Cincinnati police to possibly shed
the negative image they have unjustly earned. I’d filed this little tidbit
of information away in my conversational fodder folder a while ago.
At 10:00 pm COPS
rolls its credits, and I routinely begin to get dressed for my repetitious Saturday
night out on the town. This particular Saturday I had not planned to do much
so I just had on some jeans and a t-shirt, making it a lot easier to fit the
I then hopped into
my big white ‘fits the description’ 89 Chevrolet Caprice Classic
and made my way over to my homeboy’s house. After a game of pool and a
heated argument about whether R. Kelly or Usher has had more Hot 100 hits, me
and said homeboy decide to get out and see what’s going on at the local
bars and clubs.
Apparently in addition
to the few drinks I saw my friend have, he had a few drinks before I got over
to his house – which probably was why the argument was so heated – because he
fell asleep roughly 10 minutes into the drive and stayed that way for the duration.
A side being slightly annoyed by the black and mild cigar that he fell asleep
freaking* and spilled all over himself and my car, it was the same Saturday
night I was used to having. Once we got to our destination, I assessed the situation
and decided against dealing with dress codes and cover charges in favor of a
more casual-wear friendly venue, and started to make my way to the other local
hangout spot. That’s when I noticed ‘the boys’ in my rearview.
*freak•ing (fr k ng) adv. & adj. Slang: commonly done by urban youth;
the practice of removing the tobacco from a black and mild cigar, then removing
the inner filter paper that makes the cigar burn slower and replacing the tobacco
back into the unfiltered tobacco wrapping; the inner filter is often referred
to as ‘cancer paper’
Any young Black
male in America can tell you that once you notice ‘the boys’ in
your rearview you stiffen up a bit and your mind begins to race – regardless
to whether you are in trouble or not.
Earlier I had noticed
about four or five police cruisers parked outside of the lounge that I had decided
against going into. The lounge in question is patronized by the 25 and older,
hard-bottoms-and-slacks-crowd. They rarely require any special police attention.
This led me to believe that the officer tailing us was driven more so by boredom
Upon further inspection
of the police car thru my rearview mirror, I noticed a third person riding in
the backseat who I just assumed was some unlucky bastard who’s Saturday
night was gonna be spent at the precinct. I loosened up a bit at the notion
that the officer was not thinking about me.
Through one stop
sign… Through two stop signs… At the third stop sign I noticed that
the lane broke off into two, divided by a car length white line. Thinking the
left hand lane would be turn-only I slightly careened over to the right then
back to the left when I saw that I could in fact continue forward. I stopped
the car at the sign and proceeded forward. Blue lights. DAMN!
I pull over to
the right, turn the radio down, unsuccessfully attempt to wake my drunken tobacco
strewn passenger and began to think about all the things I could have done to
warrant him pulling me over.
come up with a thing.
As I’m left
to contemplate the reasons behind my being pulled over, the officer turns the
floodlight directly into my mirrors and proceeds to slowly approach my vehicle.
I’m no stranger to the process that ensues, upon being signaled to the
right side of the road and between sharp sips of anger and pride I prepare to
calmly field the questions that Mr. Officer is about to volley at me.
The officer stopped
short of the driver’s side window and requested the necessary documentation
for operating a motor vehicle, and after rooting thru my wallet and glove box
I handed them over to him without so much as seeing his face or a visible badge
After the request
for your license, registration, and proof of insurance, the first question that
is typically asked upon conceding to being pulled over is if you understand
why you are being pulled over. Having no idea what law I had broken, my answer
was a very curt and uninviting “No.” …Sip… Almost instantly
he shot back at me, “Well, it looked like you couldn’t decide which
lane you wanted to be in at the stop sign back there.” …Sip…
This sent me into
a miniature frenzy. It felt as if I was being pulled over for trying to pay
attention to the road and drive responsibly. …Sip… I was driven to rebuttal
and decided to turn around to face the person talking to me.
Upon turning around
and attempting to calmly explain exactly what had taken place, I noticed this
big grey furry object located near the officers waist. It was then that I also
noticed a person standing slightly behind the officer and that’s when
the realization came crashing down upon me; that’s a boom mic, that’s
a camera-man, COPS was reportedly going to be filming in Cincinnati… oh
shit, COPS is filming me! Suddenly the potent mix of pride and anger I’d
been sipping on became more than I could choke down.
I barely knew I
was speaking as I spat out “Hold up, is that a microphone? Is that a cameraman?
Awww man, pleeeease tell me you ain’t got COPS with you, PLEEEEASE tell
me I’m tripping.”
Sensing I was becoming
hostile the officer blurted out: “Calm down sir, calm down”, and
shifted his position to get directly in front of the window all the while ignoring
my question. The cameraman shuffled to the direct right of the officer to get
a better view of me. In an instant I was furious.
A car full of people
sped by screaming out “COPS! WHOOOOOO!! ARREST THEM MUTHAF**KAS!! WHOOOO!!”
I indignantly looked at the officer and said, “You need to be pulling
them over for real. They seem pretty drunk and unruly to me.” The officer
shot me a stern-faced, ‘you-are-treading-thin-ice-boy’ look and
walked away with my documentation.
It’s a weird
feeling knowing your rights are being violated but being too concerned with
the matter at hand to deal with it. I noticed the camera focusing on my open
glove box and slammed it shut mumbling something about how f**ked up the situation
I’d found myself in was.
I again attempted
to wake my slumbering passenger who merely changed his slump from left to right
and grumbled something about telling him when we made it to the club. The officer
then returned from running my license and immediately began questioning me about
the homeboy. “What’s wrong with your buddy? What’s that in
his lap? Is that a blunt?” The questions where coming faster than I could
answer and apparently he felt he had found this episode’s co-star.
He then proceeded
to walk around to the other side of the car, camera and soundman in tow, to
question my friend. The light from the camera shone directly in his face as
the officer barked at him to “Wake up!” My disoriented friend sluggishly
came to life and was instantly thrust into interrogational dialogue. The officer
requested his license, and took it back to the cruiser.
Bewildered my friend
sat and tried to gather as many details about why we were not at the club yet
and what had happened to get us in this predicament as he could. I sat sulking
angrily for a few seconds and without looking at him said, “Dog…
we on COPS man; just smile for the camera.”
When the officer
returned he questioned my friend further about why he had tobacco all over his
shirt. He tried to explain to him in layman’s terms that he was simply
freaking the cigar so it would smoke better. The officer wasn’t buying
it and asked if he had any marijuana on him to which he answered no.
He in turn, accused
my homeboy of pretending to be asleep after he noticed the officer turn his
lights on. No need in arguing that point though, that could be deemed as resisting
arrest or something. The officer then repeated the question in a more accusatory
tone. My homeboy said he was clean and invited the officer to search him. He
got out the car to be frisked, the officer did his business and told him to
get back in the car, then after handing him back his identification made his
way back around to the drivers side.
As the officer
handed me my documentation he decides he has to save face for his failed experiment
in what I felt was racial profiling fueled by possible COPS airtime. I reluctantly
fetched my cocktail full of anger and pride to take a few more gulps. Mr. Officer
then went into this speech about how I could have caused an accident and how
I need to pay more attention while I’m driving.
Okay lemme see,
I was doing the speed limit, I was watching the road, I came to a full stop;
oh yeah, I’m Black. GULP. Then he went off into how his job is to keep
the roads safe and he would hate for me to be the cause of an accident. Yeah,
so that carload full of screaming white people who were hollering at the camera
requesting that I be arrested, and driving from one of the biggest nightclubs
in that particular area don’t need any attention? Oh yeah, that’s
right, I probably fit some obscure description. GULP.
One of the COPS
film crew lingered behind as the officer left to break the news to me that we
didn’t make the show and wouldn’t have to worry about being on TV.
I guess a cautious driver being pulled over for apparently nothing worth ticketing
is not what they deem good footage. GULP. Pissed off is nowhere near an accurate
description of the aftertaste that this experience with the police has left
in my mouth.
One of the main
things that bothered me about this run-in with the law is that although I was
not wearing a seatbelt, I was not given a citation for this minor infraction.
Granted I’m ecstatic that I don’t have a ticket to show for my COPS
audition, for this officer to be keeping our streets safe from accidents and
what not, there is a seatbelt law that was not enforced. Another thing that
bugs me is that he didn’t think I was drunk. He made no mention of my
driving appearing to be suspect of intoxication and didn’t even ask me
to take any of those tests they give drunk drivers. So why was I really pulled
over? This leads me to believe that this officer was not interested in anything
but landing a segment on the show and it became glaringly evident as he stumbled
through his self-righteous speech on driver safety that he had no clue as to
why he pulled me over either.
my fair share of run-in’s with the police mind you. These encounters have
included, but were not limited to: being snatched out of cars, maced, handcuffed,
slammed, and having their weapons drawn towards me. However, I have never in
my adult life received more than a speeding ticket.
Each time I have
been wrongfully accused or detained and let go it has always been for fitting
some random description. I can only imagine how many other law-abiding citizens
can sympathize with me. I don’t feel that the presence of police is totally
unnecessary, however I do feel as if police should have a better understanding
of the people they are policing. They should not police based on generalizations
and assumptive whims.
That same evening
after our detainment my friend and I still found our way to the city’s
entertainment district. We ambled around a bit feeling like if we didn’t
do something the night would be a bust. I ran into a few girls I knew who told
me of a similar run in with the COPS film crew in the same area. The reason
they were detained was that their car fit the description of one that had been
stolen in Florida. From what I recollect Ford Explorers are a pretty common
car in almost every city I have been to.
There we also witnessed
two young white males get into a physical altercation in front of a few officers
who broke up their fight only to continue citing a largely Black, nonviolent
crowd with jay walking tickets on a street that was blocked off to incoming
traffic. A homeless man was even ticketed. I stood by bewildered and utterly
disgusted as I watched this same largely Black, nonviolent crowd get cleared
out of this area at a little after 2.30am. This was done by the same officers
who policed the same area on the night before when it was populated by a largely
white crowd until roughly 4:30am.
This type of racially
biased, uneven policing goes unchecked on a weekly basis in Cincinnati all the
All that said,
this past weekend as I prepared for my routine Saturday evening, I watched COPS
with a different perspective. As a high-speed chase in the streets of Newark
ended in a collision I thought about how many ‘takes’ it took for
them to get the scene right. I thought about how many random people had to be
pulled over before they actually found a criminal.
I don’t know
about you but knowing that the streets are being policed by officers using tactics
such as racial profiling does not make me feel safer at all, especially as one
of the races that falls under that profile.
The burden of proof
for claiming to be the victim of this type of categorization ultimately falls
on my shoulders and no one outside of the people that were there will truly
ever know just what took place. Unless on the cutting room floor of a COPS studio
somewhere there is footage of me and countless other people who didn’t
get a callback for their shot at the small screen.
Drive safe y’all…