Portney’s Complaint

Devon Portney

Ideally the job of a police officer is to serve and protect the community. The police are there when we need them, when we’ve been robbed, attacked, or otherwise victimized.

Massachusetts was the first colony to create modern day law enforcement as we know it. It’s purpose? To investigate and arrest women accused of being witches. The very first policemen in this country were invented as a response to superstitious panic, and not in response to violence or theft.

When did we become the targets for police? Rather than investigating and making arrests for crimes like rape and murder, police manipulate people who don’t know any better.

Have you ever been pulled over? Chances are, you have. Has your car ever been searched while you were pulled over? This has happened to many people simply because the police thought they might have a good chance of finding something in the car like drugs or an illegal weapon.

A girl was once pulled over for speeding, and her car was searched because she “looked nervous.” Who isn’t nervous when they’ve been pulled over? The fact is that no police officer may search your car without probable cause or a warrant. There must be a compelling reason to search the car, like an odd smell or smoke. Nervousness is not a compelling reason. Without probable cause anything found inside your car is a violation of your sixth amendment rights. It is illegal search and seizure. Cases have been thrown away because even when drugs were found, they were illegally obtained and the search that produced them should never have taken place.

I myself was pulled over once, without being told why. I was on my way to a concert with friends and we had just gotten off the exit ramp towards the stadium. Among us were several other teenagers sitting in their cars, bewildered as to their moving violation. The cops shined the flashlight into the car, into the backseat, and into our eyes. When I asked him to tell me why I had been pulled over (you also have the right to know why you’ve been detained), he snapped at me that he would tell me in a minute.

We sat there for almost twenty minutes. Some other kids were out of their cars while police searched their trunks and backpacks. I have no doubt that most of these kids had some kind of narcotic in their car. Yet unless any of them were speeding, or had a broken tail or headlight, they should not have even been pulled over, let alone searched. All of those people had their constitutional rights violated and none of them knew it.

As it turned out I had not been wearing my seatbelt, as the cop told me when he finally let me go. This of course was before the seat belt law, so really there was no reason to pull me over at all. The cops saw a great opportunity: kids on their way to a concert. There would be drugs to arrest for, and rights could be unwittingly violated.

So why do those sworn to protect us try to trick us? Police have to make arrests, it’s part of their job. Regardless of what the law or any police admit, there are illegal quotas to be filled. Police find easy targets in people who don’t know their rights. In fact, they are counting on it. Experienced criminals are the ones who do know the law, and will be harder to catch.

Many police today have different priorities when it comes to law enforcement. Some believe you should fight the battles you can win, not necessarily the ones that need fighting. Rather than put their efforts towards pulling over dangerous, reckless drivers who weave in and out of traffic and drive 100 miles per hour down the turnpike, they concentrate on the easy targets: college age pot smokers who forget to air out the car.