Police Professionalism · February 2, 2008

The Fresno Police searched my home yesterday

You may have noticed that yesterday’s “Friday in the Atelier” didn’t go up as planned. That’s because I spent part of yesterday evening getting my wife to calm down. She had a busy day.

Apparently the City of Fresno Police found it necessary to surround my apartment and extricate my wife from the apartment at gunpoint while I was at work. My wife, as many of you know is semi-invalid, has had two major heart surgeries, several back surgeries, and suffers from chronic back pain and arthritis. She was obviously such a threat that several officers did the whole “Bad boys” routine on her with guns drawn.

From what I got from the police, they were chasing a stolen car. The driver bailed out in front of our apartment complex and ran inside. The Fresno police pulled up in force and a helpful bystander pointed at the front door of our apartment with a “he went thataway” type of comment.

The police then blocked off our half of our single floor duplex apartment with their cars, lined up in front of the apartment with guns drawn, and used a loudspeaker to call, “You in the apartment, come out”.

No one thought to actually knock on the door.

My wife was in the bedroom, watching a Korean movie over DSL on her laptop, with headphones on. She would have heard a knock, but she didn’t hear the loudspeaker in the front yard. These apartments are pretty good at dampening sound.

While the police were outside, she decide she wanted a soda, and got up to go into the kitchen for it. She then heard a lot of police radios, voices, and someone shouting our apartment number. So she peeked out the front picture window to see the police lined up outside, guns ready.

It was a damn good thing she didn’t have anything in her hands. Like a cell phone, or hair dryer.

The police ordered her out of the apartment, hands up, walking backwards. They held her and then asked for (and received) permission to search the apartment. Once they had determined she wasn’t a threat and wasn’t harboring a fugitive, they became much more polite. They were definitely NOT polite when she came to the window, perhaps they were a little perturbed at being made to wait for her to notice them.

I don’t know why it didn’t occur to the police that knocking might have been a good idea.

It was scary, and more psychologically rough than necessary at first, but everything is okay now. There is no sign that we had several cops in this little two bedroom apartment. And I must commend the police sergeant that I spoke with who offered to check on my wife again to see if she was okay, and offered to call an ambulance. (No! She’s already scared of you!)

Even though I understand that the police were doing as they were trained, I still find myself a little less comfortable with law enforcement. This only reinforces my previous leanings.

I find that my view of the police has shifted over the years – I no longer see them as the reassuring “local cop” – as I did when I was young. Since the “War on Drugs” and since 9/11 I’ve started viewing the police with more suspicion. As I read police watchdogs like Radley Balko, I realize that my suspicion is not unfounded. America’s police have become militarized, and this has led to a rash of misconduct.

After yesterday, I think I’ll be keeping my eye on Fresno’s finest.

To borrow a quote often used by my friend Wickedeye:

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. – Benjamin Franklin (attributed)