This American Life: Cops See It Differently

Some of you know that I had the misfortune of attending law school.

CNR

You heard me.

Anyway, during my first summer of law school, I participated in this internship wherein we eager beaver law students helped inmates at various state prisons. We didn’t do much–mostly sentence modifications, visitation rights, the very occasional appeal. I do recall one guy who was very proud of his plan for when he got out of jail. His big idea was to somehow get the police to beat the crap out of him, after which he and his family would sue and then sit back and let the money roll in. Either that, or else fall in the parking lot of Home Depot (it had to specifically be Home Depot, for some reason).

I remember kicking my supervising attorney under the table, certain that we should say…I don’t know something to this guy. My supervisor just ignored him and went on talking about the sentence modification we were filing. I don’t remember what happened to the case, and I have no idea if this guy ever got out of prison or not. I feel like I should mention that this guy, like about half of our clients that summer, was white. Writing about it now makes me feel like he was exercising this privilege–like he was so certain of himself, of his superiority, that he could bait the cops into whacking him over the head and then hit the jackpot. I’m starting to get really pissed off, the more I think about it.

Anyway, I spent another jarringly isolating day during around and got in two TAL podcasts. Both had to do with police brutality and misconduct. Guess what color most of the victims were? Hint: they were not the same color as our convict friend, above.

It is so bothersome. I know about the well-known, publicized cases but OMG OMG OMG…if white people like our convict friend were getting beaten up in this way–

I don’t have to say it. You know what would happen.

There was one case where a guy in Florida got arrested under the “stop and frisk” 250 times!!!! What was he doing? I mean, he must have been running around the streets with a sawed off shotgun like Omar, harassing little old ladies and nuns and children, right? He must have been throwing bags of crack in the air and yelling WHEEEEEEEEEEE, right?

whee

Nope. He was hanging out at the store where he worked. Where he was employed by a very nice store owner, who also gave him a place to live.

Well, surely the police found something on him, right?

Of course not. They would arrest this man, Earl, for “trespassing”. He would spend a night in jail, and then get out again the next day and go back to work. And get arrested again. And again. And again. Because, you see, the town Earl lived in needed the “numbers”. They had to justify their police budget, police plan, whatever you want to call it. They needed the stats.

There’s more. There’s so much more. But it all just makes me think of that guy in jail, almost 20 years ago. That white guy with his big, grand plan to “get” the police to beat him up so he could sue.

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