The majority of my upbringing happened in the city of Memphis, TN. While Memphis is known for great food and live music, it is also known for racial tension and lots of murders. It was the present day Chicago while I was in high school and college. The main thing I remember about the cops in and round the city is that Memphis cops were cool, while Germantown and Collierville cops were not. I think I always equated it to the fact that Memphis PD officers have a lot on their plates and therefore know an actual threat from a perceived threat or an innocent situation. In my mind, Germantown and Collierville cops did absolutely nothing all day and therefore acted like assholes every chance they got due to complete boredom and lack of fulfillment in life. I don’t know if any of it was true, but it was how I reasoned the dramatic difference between police departments back then.
I did have a few run ins with police officers and I can tell you that I never had any negative interactions from Memphis police officers. They were always nice, polite and never threatening. The same cannot be said for the Germantown and Collierville police officers. I got pulled over a couple of times by Memphis officers and nothing crazy ever happened. Back then the fear of the blue light rapist was still in people’s minds so if you were pulled over it was common knowledge to put your blinker on and drive to a well lit and populated area no matter how long the drive. Officers understood this and they would just follow behind you until you found a place to pull over. Back then you didn’t roll down your window to talk to cops either. You would open the window just enough to allow for communication and the passing of license and registration. Again, Memphis cops knew this and I never had a problem with any of the cops. I even had cops tell me to keep doing what I was doing to keep myself safe as a young woman! Even when I got in trouble for underage drinking, the Memphis cops were nice about it. Don’t get me wrong – they did control the situation, but they were not aggressive, rude or complete douche bags about the situation. I do know the difference.
However, my interactions with Germantown and Collierville cops were the exact opposite. I once got pulled over driving down Poplar Ave in Germantown. The Germantown officer jumped out of his car yelling at me to turn off the car and get out. I was like what in the hell is wrong with this guy! Within a minute there were five Germantown cop cars with 10 officers pulling over this one little white girl on her way to Chili’s to meet friends for dinner. They even had the audacity to play bad cop/good cop on me! They made me get out of my car, yelled at me using curse words and accused me of trying to hit a police cruiser. Um, no jackass, my car hit a giant pothole in the right hand lane so my car might have swerved a tad bit but it never left my lane! Besides who ties to ram another car from the right-hand lane anyway! The officers continued playing good cop/bad cop by taking turns asking me questions and yelling at me like I was some deranged lunatic. They made me sit on the side of the road and had a k-9 drug unit come and go through my car. My guess is the jerk who pulled me over probably began to realize that he overreacted and now needed to find something on me so he verbally abused me trying to get me to confess to something and when that didn’t work he brought out a K-9 unit hoping to find drugs. He did not. In the end, I was allowed to go to dinner, but who would want to eat after that hour-long ordeal! I did nothing wrong. That Germantown police officer was just looking for someone to abuse and when my car hit the pot hole and he saw it swerve just the slightest bit, he decided to make me, a young scrawny, female, his victim.
I also had the unfortunate pleasure of watching a couple of Germantown cops harass a young guy at a gas station. I don’t know what was going on or why it happened, but I do know that the guy was there first. The cops rolled up, got out of their cars and started cursing this kid out calling him all sorts of names. The guy went into the store and the cops followed him inside and I could see the store clerk saying something to the cops and picking up his phone. The cops left the store, got into their car and left. What the hell was that? Why did they stop and harass someone like that?
Collierville cops are not much better from what I can tell either. While I have not had any actual run-ins with them, I do know that they have a worse reputation than Germantown cops which means they are worse than the two stories I just told you and that is scary.
I try not to assume the worst when it comes to police officers because I do know that there are cops out there who are doing the job for the right reasons. The problem is with the police departments themselves. I do not believe that the police departments do enough to get bad cops off the streets. Officers have and cling to a brotherhood type mentality and claim that if you disrupt the brotherhood, if you can’t trust the guys you are out there with then the police department falls apart. I call bullshit. Pardon my French. I personally know a few women who wanted to be nurses their entire lives. They worked hard, made good grades, got into nursing school and failed clinical and were subsequently kicked out of nursing school. It did not matter how much knowledge they had or how good they were at a host of other things – if they failed clinical they were out. Why? Because if you can’t pass clinical it means you are a danger to the patients you are trying to save which means you can’t practice nursing. The same standards should apply to cops. There comes a time when it doesn’t matter how good the cop is at other things, if he is bad in the clinical (i.e. bad on the streets) he should not be allowed to continue being a cop as he is putting innocent citizens in danger every time he puts on the uniform. Moreover, if the police department knows he is a hot head like the jerk that pulled me over, or if he is known to have issues with certain races or be trigger happy or be power crazy – he needs to be off the police force. No ifs, ands or buts.
From what I can tell from the news, if someone gets caught in a moment where they think their life might be in danger and shoots someone else – that person goes to prison. However, if a cop does the exact same thing, the cop always goes free even if evidence says he acted without cause. Where’s the justice in that? Perhaps if cops weren’t treated like they are above the law, they wouldn’t act like they are above the law treating people any way they choose. It is a very serious and scary reality when cops know they can shoot to kill and ask questions later. They basically have the right to murder without cause and no one is doing anything about it. Everyone says that a white female shouldn’t fear police officers, but here I am, a white female who is thinking twice if a siren is behind her or if she needs to call for help. I just don’t know if I can trust the officer coming to my aid anymore. Unfortunately, the only real way for policing in America to improve is for the police departments themselves to clean up their own men in uniforms by making them pay for crimes they commit while on the job. Otherwise the citizens they are tying to “protect and serve” will always have a reason to think twice when it comes to dealing with the men in blue.