"Yesterday the city cops came to my sister's house and put her in jail for no reason at all," the young brunette behind the counter of the little shop and rob market said.
"Oh?" I said, taking the Styrofoam cup of steaming, black coffee she handed me. "Police officers just showed up at your sister's house without anybody calling and without a warrant, did they?"
"Well, no -- my sister called them to begin with. But they arrested her for no reason at all, right in her own front yard," the young woman said.
Taking a sip of coffee, I pondered her words for a few moments. "Why did your sister call the police?"
"Well, her husband was knocking her around. He does it all the time. She called the cops because she wanted them to make her husband stop hitting her."
"And did they stop him?" I asked.
"Yes, but they arrested him. My sister didn't want him arrested. She just wanted him to stop knocking her around. She didn't want her husband to miss work and lose his job. She told the cops that but they wouldn't listen."
"Then what happened?" I asked, taking another sip of coffee.
"Well, she just grabbed one of the cops by the arm and tried to get his attention. That's when they arrested my sister," the young woman said indignantly.
"Let me see if I've got this straight," I said. "Your sister called the police because her husband was beating her up. The officers showed up and arrested your brother-in-law, because the law in this state calls for a mandatory arrest for domestic violence. While the officers were arresting her
husband for domestic violence, your sister interfered by laying hands on one the officers and then she was arrested for reason at all. Is that right?"
"Exactly," the young woman said, the irony going right over head.
Every man and woman with a badge has heard a similar story from someone, somewhere. The cops just showed up and arrested him or her for no reason. Of course, you don't have to dig too deeply because it doesn't require the investigative skills of Sherlock Holmes to get the details that were conveniently left out. The most honest people in the world conveniently forget details when they feel as if they or a loved one have been treated unjustly.
That thought was in my mind as I read recent indignant editorials about a woman in Texas who was arrested for driving without a seat belt and for having her two children unrestrained in the back seat. All over America, civil libertarians with only one side of the story have been writing and
talking about the erosion of civil rights in America, when a jack booted thug can throw a poor mother in jail for committing a minor offense.
Now, it's possible that the officer is a total jerk with no discretion at all, but I doubt it. And the reason I doubt is because the woman who was arrested for violating laws written to protect her and her children, filed the lawsuit after pleading guilty, supposedly because she saw that same nasty police officer mistreating a poor old lady.
Personally, I would have to ask how a cop so totally without judgment managed to stay with his department for more than a couple of weeks. He wouldn't have lasted very long with the department for which I worked if he made a habit of blatantly abusing his authority. No administration could or would put up with such a public relations nightmare.
As Paul Harvey might say, we have not heard the rest of the story. My guess would be that the lady refused to sign a traffic citation or otherwise placed the officer in a situation where he had no choice except to make a hands-on arrest. And let's face it, there were a lot of stops between traffic court and the United States Supreme Court, which upheld the arrest.
Of course, I'm biased because I've been in situations where I either had to make an arrest I didn't want to make or allow someone to defy the laws I had sworn to uphold. It's called being caught between a rock and a hard place, or damned if you do and damned if you don't.
David Hunter is a retired detective and the author of several books. His e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org