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Yes, police do harass people: It is called law enforcement
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It’s a tongue in cheek police harassment satire that a friend sent me on line supposedly written by a police sergeant in a Southern California department.  It was well done and it was obvious I had to talk with the author before using it in a column.

In searching out the writer I learned that he hadn’t written the piece in the first place and in fact was chastised unfairly because the ghost writer chose to use his name and launched it onto the internet causing embarrassment.   In keeping it from going any further in the “misunderstanding” department, we will not mention any names or locations – but the humor in harassment is choice.

It reads:

“Recently, a medium sized police department ran an email forum (a question and answer exchange) with the topic being, “Community Policing.”

“One of the civilian email participants posed the following question.

“I would like to know how it is possible for police officers to continually harass people and get away with it.”

From the “other side” (the law enforcement side), the sergeant, obviously a cop with a sense of humor replied:

“First of all, let me tell you this…it’s not easy.  In our city we average one cop for every 600 people.  Only about sixty percent of those cops are on general duty (or what you might refer to as “patrol”) where we do most of our harassing.

“The rest are in non-harassing departments that do not allow contact with the day-to-day innocents.  And, at any given moment, only one fifth of the 60 per cent patrollers are on duty and available for harassing people while the rest are off duty.

“So, roughly, one cop is responsible for harassing about 5,000 residents.

“When you toss in the commercial business, and tourist locations that attract people from other areas, sometimes you have a situation where a single cop is responsible for harassing 10,000 or more people a day.

“Now your average 10-hour shift runs 36,000 seconds long.  This gives a cop one second to harass a person, and then only three fourths of a second to eat a donut and find a new person to harass.  This is not an easy task.  To be honest most cops are not up to this challenge day in and day out.  It is just too tiring.  What we do is utilize some tools to help us narrow down those people we can realistically harass.”

The tools available to us are as follows:

1. PHONE:  People will call us and point out things that cause us to focus on a person for special harassment.  “My neighbor is beating his wife” is a code phrase often used.  This means we’ll come out and give somebody some special harassment.

2. Another popular one is, “There’s a guy breaking into a house.”  The harassment team is then put into action.

3. CARS: We have special cops assigned to harass people who drive.  They like to harass the drivers of fast cars, cars with no insurance, no driver’s license and the like.  Its lots of fun when you pick them out of traffic for nothing more obvious than running a red light.  Sometimes you get to really heap the harassment on when you find they have drugs in the car, or they are drunk or have an outstanding warrant.

: Some people take off running just at the sight of a police officer.  Nothing is quite as satisfying as running after them like a beagle on the scent of a bunny.  When you catch them you can harass them for hours.

5. STATUTES: When we don’t have PHONES or CARS and have nothing better to do, there are actually books that give us ideas for reasons to harass folks.  They are called statutes, criminal codes, motor vehicle codes, etc.   They spell out all sorts of things for which you can really mess with people.

“After you read the statutes, you can just drive around for awhile until you find someone violating one of the listed offenses and harass them.  Why just last week I saw a guy trying to steal a car.  Well, there’s this book we have that says that’s not allowed.  That meant that I have permission to harass this guy.  It is a cool system that we have set up, and it works pretty well.

“We seem to have a never-ending supply of folks to harass.  And we get away with it.  Why? Because for the good citizens who pay the tab, we try to keep the streets safe for them and they pay us to harass some people.

“Next time you’re in my town, give me the old “single finger wave.”  That’s another one of those codes.  It means: “You can’t harass me!”

“It’s one of our favorites.”