Tuesday, July 10, 2018

I Went to the Police Station to File a Complaint and Left Angrier


I left with more to complain about. I left with my boyfriend completely shaken and in tears. I left all the more determined to see the police abolished.

I filed a complaint with the Bothell Police Department online early Saturday morning after all that shit went down and I was far too upset to sleep. The next day, to my surprise, I got a call from a Bothell officer to follow up. I got some more information from him as well as some excuses and after refusing to take them, he asked me if I wanted to file a complaint. I said yes, confused, because I thought I had already done so, and he said I could come down to the station to file one. I guess doing it online isn't official, maybe I don't know. But I wanted to make sure it was officially on file, so after gathering the nerve for a couple days, I finally went to the station today.

We (myself and my boyfriend because I was too scared to go alone) waited 10-15 minutes for an officer to show up after using an internal phone to explain that I wanted to file a complaint about police conduct. He took us into a little office where he sat at a desk and us in chairs in front of him. He asked me what happened and I explained the domestic violence incident we witnessed and a bit of why I wanted to file a complaint. I really didn't expect to have to say this directly to a cop. I wanted a form I could fill out in peace.

The officer took some time to read the police reports on the incident after saying that he could probably "answer my questions" (I hadn't asked any). He then asked us some questions like whether the couple lived together, and we said we assumed so but weren't totally sure. He then went into some thing about "imagine if you didn't live together but one of you came over all the time but your name isn't on the lease" and I was confused as to where he was going with that. I'm not sure if that was listed as a reason for the woman's arrest, but the male half of that couple didn't seem to be trying to get her to leave at any point, rather he was saying that he was trying to leave and she shouted at him to leave at least once, very likely at least twice.

My boyfriend chimed in to say that he understood but he didn't think it mattered whether she was officially on the lease or not. He and the officer talked a bit and it was soon clear that my boyfriend was not a fan of the police. The officer then made a bit of a speech about how he's a black man and understands stereotypes, and tried to convince us that stereotypes against cops are the same as racial stereotypes. I was not trying to get into an argument about this - I just came for some fucking forms - but I was of course thinking "YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE A COP. YOU CAN TAKE OFF YOUR UNIFORM."

Mostly I nodded respectfully, trying to keep my white privilege in mind. I was also stressed out to the max, fidgeting and picking at my skin constantly. I just wanted to fill out a complaint form or take one home with me. I just wanted to leave.

Instead the officer proceeded to try and explain away everything the cops on scene that horrific night did. I was waiting for an opportunity to explain that I would not be at all surprised if the police were following procedure - my problem is with the procedure. But you know how men are. I was mostly quiet for the rest of the time as my boyfriend and the officer talked. My boyfriend was getting increasingly upset and visibly crying. Actually, the first thing my boyfriend said in that tiny little office/interrogation room was asking me if I had any tissues because he was already tearing up.

At some point, and I might be getting the order of things mixed up because it feels like my brain is actively trying to push the memories out of my head, he asked me what my biggest complaint was, and said it was very unusual for someone to file a complaint when they were not directly involved in the incident. I don't know why he needed to pinpoint the biggest complaint because all of my complaints were important, but I said the most upsetting thing was that they hadn't let the woman get dressed before arresting her and dragging her off in her negligee.

He read both the initial and secondary reports to try and find a reason why they didn't let her get dressed, but there was none given. He said that typically, someone would be allowed to go back inside their home and get properly dressed before being handcuffed, but sometimes they are not. Reasons include if they think there are weapons in the person's home or if the arrestee is combative. The officer asked me if the woman had been "lippy" with the officers on scene.

I want to pause here to say that being upset and loud and yes, even """lippy""" should not disqualify someone from basic dignity. We civilians have a right to clothing even if we're not 100% licking the cops' assholes at all times. Especially women as long as cops have a tendency to sexually assault women.

Oh, and before that, the officer explained to me that cops can indeed determine the primary aggressor in a domestic violence call in under 5 minutes, and in fact in as little as 30 seconds! Okay, Sergeant Collins, you may think that cops can do that. What I am here to say is that no, you fucking can't. Just because you think you got enough to tick off your cop boxes for "probable cause" doesn't mean it's right. This is the entire problem with police. Now this woman has an arrest record, now the state of Washington is charging her with a crime whether her boyfriend wants to press charges or not, now she's had to spend time in one of those awful, disgusting, abuse-ridden jails because the cops didn't want to spend more than five minutes to find out what happened.

Also, he explained that Bothell does have domestic violence advocates, but they're not going to come out at 2 am! By which he means the city/police department isn't going to pay to have enough of these advocates staffed around the clock or pay enough to get them to agree to be on call after business hours, which I'm guessing is when most domestic violence calls happen. He practically laughed at the idea. Ha ha ha.

Back to the big complaint, and my least favorite part of this trip to the friendly neighborhood Bothell Police Department. He then said that we, me and my boyfriend, were in the report, and that it said we were hostile or something like that. He said that """maybe""" the reason they had to haul this woman off without letting her get dressed is because we and the three other people out there were, essentially, making cops nervous. He then asked us to imagine a situation where a big crowd of people were yelling at the police while they were arresting someone naked at McMenamins. The police would want to get the person out of there quick in order to calm things down!

Here are the problems with that. 1) There were, at most, five bystanders watching the situation. Me and my boyfriend in our pajamas (me without shoes on), a man from another building in the complex off by the mailboxes, an old lady, and my apartment manager watching from his window. 2) None of us were yelling or doing anything but watching until they pulled the woman's hands behind her back and handcuffed her. At this point, they already were not going to let her get dressed, because how's she going to do that in handcuffs? It wasn't until then that the yelling started. 3) There were three officers there, all of them with guns, against a tiny gaggle of people in pajamas, one who didn't want to come outside (because cops) and one an old fucking lady.

Why do cops feel so threatened by the people they're supposedly supposed to protect and serve? But also, #2 invalidates the whole argument, which is essentially that it was our fault the woman didn't get clothes. So I'm guessing either the cops were lazy, didn't give a fuck, or the woman was too "lippy" to deserve dignity and protection from being ogled by gross cops. Who knows, maybe the male cops there just wanted a show! Maybe they got off on handcuffing an almost-nude woman. That may seem unreasonable, but it sounds more reasonable to me than "the three cops with guns were afraid of the five unarmed civilians in pajama bottoms."

So that was the biggest bit of bullshit. At this point it was very clear that the officer was trying to convince us not to file a complaint. He was trying to explain away what happened, hoping that we would go "oh, well, if that kind of horrible and heartless conduct is standard procedure, then it's fine!" God knows how long that would have gone on, but our time there came to an abrupt end when my boyfriend, getting more upset, said that he had seen videos of "de-escalation training" in which cops are told/have said that putting their hands on their guns is de-escalation. The officer directly denied this and claimed to have been a de-escalation trainer. He then, for some reason I will never be able to determine, said it was ridiculous to say that grabbing at your gun was de-escalation, and demonstrated that action. He grabbed his holstered gun handle right there in front of us.

My brain is at a complete stop at this point and I'm feeling pretty numb, but my boyfriend does not have this reaction to stress and is also very afraid of guns, moreso than I am. He freaks out a little. He says that he's done and he wants to leave, and gets up from his chair, again visibly crying. The officer gets up as well and says he'll get us the complaint forms and we can request copies of the police reports up front. My boyfriend does not want to turn his back on the officer and says so, but the officer refuses to go out first, saying he'll stand there all day until we leave first. My stress has spiked to the limit so I basically push my poor boyfriend out the door because I need the fuck out of there immediately.

The officer goes to get the forms, I request the police reports and am told to do so online, and I hope I fucking can because now that I'm out of there I realize I'm pretty sure I can't do that when it's a domestic violence case so fuck me. I then tell my boyfriend to wait in the car because he is so upset. It takes a few minutes for the officer to come back, leave again to write down the case number for us, and come back again.

As he's walking me out he starts going into the "officers were following procedure and did nothing wrong" speech again, and is onto "bystanders like your boyfriend are the reason they didn't let the woman get dressed" (he literally said my boyfriend there) when said boyfriend returned because he thought the officer had accosted me (and he had, let's be honest). I finally got the opportunity to say that I understood that the officers on scene were following procedure, and that my problem was with the procedure. This ends the interaction, and we leave.

There's a good chance that there's more that happened that I don't remember just now. I am, once again, very tired and feeling pretty awful. But this time, I'm much angrier. I did not use my personal time to go down to the police station to have a cop try and convince me not to file a complaint. Now I have something new to complain about, and this time I know the officer's name.

They make it as difficult as possible to even file a complaint against an officer. If someone wants to file a complaint about how I do my job, they could just do so on the fucking company Facebook account. I'm not allowed to sit them down in a little room and try to convince them not to file a complaint until I make their significant other cry.

All Sergeant Collins did was harden my resolve. I'm not letting this go. My complaints will be filed, and I will be writing the city council, and I'll be pitching an article about all this until someone accepts it. And I'm betting that someone will.

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