An Open Letter to the Police Officer Who Ticketed Me

Officer –

I’m writing to apologize to you, because I feel shame for my behavior when we first met. You pulled me over under dubious circumstances and after following my car for a significant amount of time; I was scared. You approached with your hand on your gun, and your cool demeanor conveyed nothing but hostility and the threat of easy violence.

After your callous and condescending attitude had its way, you issued me a ticket. You asked me if there was “anything else.” I was scared for my life, for my legal liberty, for my safety. I responded “no.”

But that’s simply not true, and I’m ashamed that I didn’t risk my safety and my liberty to tell you the truth. The truth is, you make me ashamed to be an American. You revolt me; you disgust me. As Americans, we’ve spent so much time either “Making America Great Again” or (alternately) trying to prevent its demise at the hands of federal pseuo-fascists that we’ve forgotten a simple truth: most governmental abuse happens at the local level. Donald Trump or Barack Obama have infinitely less power to destroy America than you wield on a daily basis.

I took a left turn on a green arrow. You say there was a “no U-Turn” sign there; I didn’t see it. For the sake of argument, let’s assume you are correct, and the green arrow was contradicted by another sign. I drove on a nearly-empty road. I didn’t even see you, at first. You pulled up behind me, tailgated me, followed as I drove down a safe and slow road, and proceeded to pull onto the highway with me. Only then, while I was in a less save vehicular position, and after you’d had time to ascertain that I was from California, so not likely to challenge your “authority” in court, did you flip on your lights.

I was on the side of the road, a highway, by your design. An 18-wheeler roared past, swerving and going well over the speed limit (likely as the result of texting, if the vehicular undulations were any indication). I asked about the possibility of contesting my ticket in court; you responded with scorn. You’re just fulfilling a quote; my perfect driving record and the facts of the situation (I was driving slowly, operating my vehicle safely, and on a nearly-empty road while preparing to move to China) were irrelevant. You pushed on me some “driving school” that I could take online, provided that I also pay around $160 in fines to your city. I decided to pay the ticket; your city charges a one-time $36 dollar fine for any “first offenses.” Why? Because you target foreigners. You target people from outside your state, you fulfill a quota, and you impose on travelers a tax because you can.

I once had my car broken into; about $6,000 of computers and camera gear was taken. The police at the scene had a fingerprint (in perfect condition on a camera lens), security camera footage, and *the exact location of the thief*. My computer had tracking software on it. They knew his address. But any theft under $10,000 “wasn’t worth their time,” they said. Six months later, in another city, my car was stolen. It was found days later, full of liquor and used condoms. The insurance company complained, but they paid their claim. Your “brothers in blue”? They did nothing.

You, Sir, are disgusting. You are an example of the corruption that felled Rome, the agent of a system which evinces banal brutality to suppress and tax citizens: primarily men and women of color. You participate daily in a system which plants evidence to cover murder[1], rapes teenagers[2], and kills men who “can’t breathe.”[3] I’m an upper middle class white man; I literally cannot image the fear a black woman would have had. Or an immigrant man.

I drive through intra-state border checkpoints operated by your corrupt brothers at the ICE and Border Protection; they wave me through with one look at my face. My brown and black siblings have no such privilege. Where is due process? I should have had every right to contest my ticket, but you targeted me on my way from Los Angeles to Shanghai, making only a small stop in Atlanta. You asked invasive questions; I knew that any attempt on my part to protect my privacy could result in jail time. Your authority was un-checked.

I can’t return to Arizona to plead my case. Instead, I pay a $130 fine plus over $40 in rubbish “fees.” This is corruption incarnate. I’m leaving America because there’s greater opportunity on the pother side of the world. America is no longer the land of the free when I *know* that to have spoken my mind in public, you’d have arrested me. You’d have thrown me in jail, and any future employer would see my mugshot. My innocence wouldn’t have mattered. You’re a cop, which makes you complicit in a system that makes you a killer.

For a year after college, I worked for a non-profit that taught film to inner-city children. Middle schoolers, boys and girls who were 12-13. They were all black, and my advice to them was always the same: the cops are the enemy. Avoid them, and if they corner you, obey them. We’ll settle this later. You have no rights in the country because they are oppressors. You may fail to see the truth of this country, but I’ve traveled and lived across it, and my white sisters often say the same things as many of my black brothers: the police are the enemy.

Are you a bad person? I’m not saying that. But testified across history, up to even the flawed methodology of the Stanford Prison Experiment, comes a simple truth: the empowered abuse their power. And you’re in a situation where when you wield your power, it lessens the freedoms of America.

Sir, every day that you work erodes the freedoms that our veterans have died for.

With revulsion,