Unwillingly Reeled In By COPS Crew

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 […]

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

City, USA.

I’ve imagined

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.

The hypothetical

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

than suspicion.

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.

I couldn’t

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

s###, 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. P##### 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.

I’ve had

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…