Law Enforcement without Justice

cuffedLike many of my friends, I am disturbed by the events in Ferguson. The situation of police harassment, abuse, brutality and unjustified manslaughter in this country is rampant and needs to end.

Far too often people of Color and LGBT communities are made to suffer indignities while a majority enjoys a privilege of respect and is often given a free pass that is counter-intuitive to the deliverance of true and unprejudiced justice. Our civil liberties, rights, freedoms and indeed our very lives should be not be trivialized or jeopardize by our justice system.

I have experienced my own brush with local law enforcement. The experience left me feeling dehumanized, angry and has made me reluctant to fully trust a system that is purposed to “Protect and Serve” because they have far too often done quite the polar opposite.

As a Gay person of Color I have experienced a system that has treated me and my communities as less than equal and deserving of respect. My rights have been trampled with disturbing effect.

While shopping in the Haight for my AIDS/LIFE CYCLE Dress in Red outfit I was harassed by SFPD. I was in the company of a Caucasian friend when we were stopped, allegedly for crossing against a red light. Having never before interacted with SFPD my intuition immediately told me that the situation would rapidly unfold with negative results.

We encountered an SFPD vehicle parked illegally, backwards, blocking the crosswalk. Only after we had fully crossed the intersection where we were addressed by SFPD. “Hey Guys”… the SFPD then pulled an illegal U-turn to park, again, illegally in the adjacent intersection to question and cite us. No concern for our safety was shown if we had indeed begun crossing against a red.

While exchanging words with these officers explaining our presence in the neighborhood. We inquired if the citation we were apparently about to receive was necessary – as the light was still green. This is when things began to get ugly as my Caucasian friend, already crouched alongside of the car, made the mistake of touching the ajar door of the Police vehicle.

We were then commanded to sit upon the filthy pavement when I made the mistake of asking “Why…..” and before I could complete my sentence I was immediately cuffed and placed into the squad car, alone. Infuriated by the unfolding situation, I removed my cell phone from my pocket and immediately began to use social media to draw attention to the abuse of power inequality and injustice committed by these men.

As nearby witnesses to the event began to shout profanities in our defense at SFPD my frustrations began to mount. The officer inside in the vehicle had begun pulling up my personal records, I presume in attempt to justify the detainment. For the record, I have no record. I was compelled to inform the officer that his illegal positioning of the squad card had begun to adversely affect public transportation. Several MUNI buses by that time had been forced to queue up behind the car as the audiences began to increase. Only after several moments of my persuading the officer did he finally move the vehicle.

Reasoning offered for my detention were that they “didn’t know if I had a gun or a knife”. I was never frisked. Adding insult to injury we found ourselves further victimized by these officers during our trial when they offered false testimony to defend the purpose for their issuing our citations. They committed perjury – willfully telling untruths in court after having taken an oath by suggesting that they had to grind to a screeching halt as to prevent from running us down. Thankfully, the case was thrown out. However, my time in court that day perfectly illustrated this unsettling disparity in our justice system and the disparity between the Caucasian officers and their African American counterparts. While waiting for our case to be heard by the Judge, I was able to whiteness an African American female officer properly implement the law. Her justifications and arguments were sound and backed, not by false testimony but by facts and evidence.

Experiences like these are there root of my passion to continue and expand my involvement in our community as to stand up against such injustices.

Shaun Haines

The quickest route to failure is not to try. S.H.H.