My White Experience With Police

I believe that most cops have integrity and restraint. I also believe there are some really, really bad folks who become cops.  And yes, I’m white. I’ve seen cops first hand, when I was raped (by a scrawny white guy with a big knife) and at least 10 police cars showed up, along with the press and a helicopter from the trauma center. Most of the officers stayed outside, guns drawn, aiming at my balcony. I was in the apartment directly under mine, with neighbors I’d met 2 days earlier, as I’d just moved in 10 days before the rape. The Sgt who ended up shooting the guy (I refer to him as Numbnuts- does he really need a human name?)  in my bedroom went through hell for the shooting- which was a good shooting. Another cop had cuffed one of Numbnuts  hands as he was dozing in my bed. Then Numbnuts sprang out of bed and beat up the first cop- a rookie, who then got tossed out of the apartment. The racket heard from my neighbors’ apartment was horrible- bodies hitting the ground, shelves knocked over, stuff breaking.

Now, there was a wounded COP, and myself as ‘victims’ when the Sgt who shot Numbnuts got there. He didn’t know I was already downstairs, so was on full “protect and serve” mode when he entered the apartment. He was trying to find me.

Numbnuts lunged at him with the cuffs swinging, and all that was visible to Sgt  was a blur of metal coming from the hand of the rapist. He shot him thinking he was going to be shot. Sgt  had to go through target practice and administrative leave (standard procedure) and got grief for not waiting for the SWAT team. He also got grief for not killing Numbnuts, but he was shooting a moving target. The bedroom wasn’t huge. but Numbnuts was all over the place. There was maybe 6 feet between Sgt  and Numbnuts. He did the right thing, even though Numbnuts didn’t have a gun. He’d already beat up another cop. There was no reason to expect him not to attack. He’d been going at me for six hours. And there was a blur of metal.

I was able to reconnect with that Sgt a few times. He sat with me in the hall during the trial- both of us smoking under a “No Smoking” sign (I figured I’d just say “I’m with him.” if anybody said anything. Nobody did.). He was my ‘guard’ as I waiting to testify, and he also was on the list to testify, but after I spent a couple of hours on the stand, Numbnuts changed his plea during the lunch break. Then I saw Sgt again when he was a patient where I worked, dealing with an injury from target practice (the target jerked his neck hard when the wind blew up strongly as he was carrying it back to wherever they keep cardboard bad guys). When I went into his room to say hello, I said “you might not remember me, but..” and before I could finish, he was on his feet hugging me, saying “I’ll never forget you.”, through tears.  And he didn’t. He told me that he was often awake at night thinking about that day.

I ended up working with one of Sgt’s relative’s wife, and sent him a note through her husband to thank him. He was my hero in Jan 1987. When I moved back to my home state, I was able to find him again online, and he e-mailed me how that day was from his side. He didn’t take that shooting lightly. He didn’t know where I was, or if I was hurt/dying in the apartment. He shot when he saw blurred metal coming up towards him. Nothing but a seconds, if that, to make a decision. He told me that people seem to think that police don’t think much about shooting someone, but that wasn’t accurate. The cops who  are good at their jobs live with those decisions for the rest of their lives-from a different perspective that isn’t talked about.  And those are the “good” shootings.  Not the ones that make the news because of racial bias.

He had PTSD-like symptoms from that shooting, and initially was not treated that well by some of his co-workers, for not waiting for SWAT. He made a judgement call to find me. Things got better before he retired. He died last year after years of dealing with a brain tumor and other medical issues. We e-mailed on and off- and I always knew I could e-mail him, as we were the only two who knew what went on during all of that morning.

As soon as I knew Numbnuts was shot, I just spaced out, and was focused on what was going to go on at the hospital with the rape exam/test kit, as well as figuring out where to stay. I could have stayed with my aunt and uncle, no question. But I wanted to be closer to my apartment, since I had to leave with nothing but the robe and slippers my 5-foot nothing, 90 pound neighbor put over the towel I had when I escaped barefoot. I needed to be able to get to my apartment quickly, with the police, to get belongings the next day, after the crime scene people were done. I was able to stay with a co-worker about a mile from my apartment, and she went with me to the police station to finish the statement (7 typed pages over 2 days of giving the police information about what happened), and to the apartment where we met the police (who had to unseal the crime scene tape from the door- and they had my keys).  I found fingerprint dust, a lot of blood in the bedroom, smudged bloody handprints on the walls, my blood in various places, and the blown out sliding glass door in the bedroom (that the apartment complex wanted me to pay for; I was told to tell them that their insurance should cover it- and that I wasn’t in the apartment when the damage happened). I was still ‘shocky’, but was able to get my purse, car, and some clothes to get me through the week, so I could sort out where I was going to live- I couldn’t go back to that apartment.

 

I know that there are way too many documented stories about ‘bad cops’.  Every one of the police I dealt with that day, from the first guys on the scene to the detectives who worked Sex Crimes treated me well.  I had a lot of things that worked in my favor- like the guy being in my bed when the first cop got there. Everything that I told the police was backed up by blood stains (mine) in the apartment, as well as the bruises that showed up on my face and jaw, the hole in my lip where my teeth went through it, and the injuries noted during the rape exam. As a nurse, I’ve talked with police when they needed to talk to  patients. I couldn’t tell them anything other than “yes, it’s OK to knock and see if they want to talk”. And yes, I’m white. This all happened in 1987, when we didn’t have 24/7 news, so many things weren’t known by anybody outside of a specific area. Now we know a lot more.

For those who have had negative associations of police, I’m so sorry that it turned out that way in your situation.  I’m sorry if you’ve lost a family member or friend because of a cop that wasn’t following procedure and caused injury (physical or emotional) or death. I’m sorry if you’ve been targeted because of your race. I don’t know how you feel– but I have seen footage, and am incredibly sad and angry about what I’ve seen.  I’m angry about the kids left behind without a parent or other family member. I’m horrified that we’re not further along in seeing all  people in our country as worthy of our compassion, especially after so many years of oppression (yes, I believe this country is racist). It’s been 401 years since the first slave ship came to the US ( 1619, landing in Point Comfort, in what would become Virginia; the 20 slaves had been kidnapped by the Portuguese and transported by them).  I have found various “first slave ship” info – so if someone wants to comment about others, please feel free to do so.   The Emancipation Proclamation was signed on January 1, 1863… 157 years since slavery was abolished and we need to do so much better.  White folks in general need to listen, not assume. We need to address the disparity in the criminal justice system.  We need to look out for each other. We need to do a lot of things.  And we need to remember that people need to have police that respect them as human beings. Many do.  But we need to do better.

But I CAN understand why many don’t see it that way.