Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Always Ahead of My Time

Once in college I was riding in a car with some bandmates on the way home from practice late at night. Being that a car full of college-aged boys will always lead to someone doing something stupid, at one point we drove by a police car and a buddy of mine dared me to flip off the cops. Because I am nothing if not a bad ass rebel (NOTE: I am roughly as far from being a badass rebel as is possible), I took him up on the dare and flipped off the cruiser as we drove past.

Fast forward a few blocks and suddenly we get pulled over. Given that several minutes had passed, none of us had yet made the connection that this was the same police car, so we didn't really know what was going on. As in any routine traffic stop, an officer appeared and asked for the license and insurance of the driver and for some reason my license, even though I was in the passenger seat. After running our info, the cop came back to the car and asked me to step out of the vehicle. I actually had to have him repeat the order, because I was incredibly confused as to why I was being asked to step out the of the car when I wasn't driving.

As soon as I did step out, though, the other officer from the cruiser was standing about 6 inches from my face and while jabbing a finger in my chest asked if I flipped him off a few blocks back, to which I admitted that yes, I had. He then asked me why I did it, and I gave him the honest answer of "my friends and I were being stupid and thought it would be funny." This obviously angered him in some way, as he became even more belligerent and we had the following exchange. I obviously can't guarantee this is verbatim, but both my buddies and I have told the story so many times over the years, I can say this is pretty much what was said:

Cop: If there was someone just walking down the street and you flipped them off, would that be a crime?

Me: Uh...no?

Cop: (obviously not hearing what I said) THEN WHY SHOULD IT BE ANY DIFFERENT FOR ME?

Me: (having no idea how to answer) Uh...it shouldn't?

Cop: You're damn right. I could arrest you and take you in right now.

Me: For what?

Cop: Assault of an officer.

Me: Uh...no, I'm pretty sure you can't? Like, I don't see at all how gesturing at you from 100 feet away makes an assault.

Cop: Oh, I can definitely arrest you for that.

We then went on to argue for a few minutes about whether he could arrest me for assaulting an officer or not, and I have to give myself credit for being able to hold back laughter then entire time (quick legal tip: assault, by definition, has to include physical contact). Eventually he told me I could either apologize or be arrested, so I gave a half-hearted apology and told him we were just being stupid, didn't mean anything by it, etc. He seemed kind of disappointed that I apologized instead of continuing to be an asshole, but he stayed true to his word and let me go (well, "let me go" is a generous assessment, since again, there was literally nothing he could have actually charged me with).

And while I've found this entire exchange hilarious for quite some time, I now get to officially have the last laugh, as the 2nd circuit federal appeals court has ruled giving cops the finger is free speech protected by the Constitution.

So to you, random Waterloo police officer, out there somewhere -- I'd like to use my legally-protected right of free speech to let you know how I feel about you harassing kids for being kids:

No comments: