Why I’m Afraid of the Cops

a highly saturated image of a police officer from the neck down. he is holding a baton in his hand and looking scary

This morning a police car followed me for half my commute to work. I’d rather have 10 spiders in my car with me, crawling up my arms. I’m not really scared of spiders, in fact I think they’re productive, helpful and generally well intentioned. Cops, on the other hand, I’m terrified of.

My former Kindergarten teacher turned family friend likes to tell the story of the time she was teaching the class about Nelson Mandela, who was then imprisoned for his political activism. She says that after the lesson I raised my hand and told everyone that I had also been to prison, like Mr. Mandela. The summer before school my mother’s gross boyfriend was manufacturing meth in the basement, and our house was raided. I got to wait at the police station for my grandma to pick me up. According to my friend, I ended up getting all the children of the class, who were the sons and daughters of some very rich, very influential people to tell all about their own, and their parents, brushes with the law. Apparently some of it was quite scandalous.

In addition to being an adorable story about my general charisma, the first time I heard it was also the first time I learned about that event in my life. I do have a vague memory of strangers with guns coming through the doors and windows, spilling into the house and yelling, but if that’s from real life or Law and Order, we will never know.

As long as I can remember, I have been terrified of police. Learning how to drive was especially traumatic because I had to hold it together when there were cops around, and apply my new operational knowledge to my 15 year old stick shift at the same time like I wasn’t about to pass out.

Whenever police officers speak to me, I’m find myself totally obsessing about the fact that they could beat the fuck out of me, or shoot me or rape me and nothing would happen to them. Who do you go to when a police officer assaults you? Not the cops, that’s for damn sure. Although thanks to the fact that I look white, and have increasingly well paying white-collar jobs, maybe I’m moving towards a safety zone with that. Not that I’m making a generalization about police officers, but let’s face it, everybody has that handful of co-workers who don’t do their job right, who are bad people doing a bad job because they can, or who are good people doing a bad job because they’re in the wrong profession. Cops are no different. All it takes is one asshole on a power trip, or one high strung freakout and your ass is in a wheelchair, pooping into a bag.

Maybe I’m the normal one, and all you people who talk to cops like they aren’t heavily armed strangers with a high school diploma and a license to kill are the weird ones. In theory, I like cops. I like when they do their jobs, and I respect that my city is safer with than without them. Cops I have met personally in my life seem like nice guys, but I’m still scared of them, and I think you should be too.

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