Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Victim of Profiling, Once Again

On my drive from Baton Rouge back to Tallahassee, I was pulled over on I-10 in Mississippi. I wasn't sure what I'd done that warranted being pulled over. I had my lights on but it wasn't raining, so I didn't think it could be for a light that was out.

The officer came around the passenger side of my car...I guess it's safer with traffic that way. I rolled down the rear passenger window & explained that the front passenger window doesn't work. He asked if the door worked and he opened the shotgun door to talk to me. He didn't come right out and tell me why I was pulled over. He did the license and registration thing first. He asked me if I owned the car, where I was coming from, how long I'd been there, and where I was going. I told him that I was visiting my Aunt in Baton Rouge since last Thursday and he asked what part of the city. I told him not too far from downtown or the school. He replied “so you don't know exactly where you were staying?” Mind you that I'm at least 100 miles from BR at this point, so I didn't think that an intersection would have been useful to him. I gave him a more specific location. He asked if I was from Tallahassee and I told him that I go to FSU. He started asking me all kinds of drug related questions. Do you have “any small amount” of marijuana? I answer in the negative. He counters: “are you sure?” I kind of laughed at him. He said that I seemed kind of nervous. I explained that I've never been pulled over before and didn't really know the drill. He asked if I'd ever been in trouble with the law before. Once again, he couldn't let my denial stand without questioning it again. I think it was at this point that he gave his reason for pulling me over.

He was pulled off to the right side of the road. I was driving in the left lane approaching him. About a half mile back, there was another car off to the side of the road. One blue car in the right lane hugged the left side of the right lane to give more space to that car on the shoulder. That blue car happened to be close to me when I was passing the police officer who was pulled over, so I hugged the left side of my lane in anticipation that the blue car would try to come over. I got pulled over for my tires touching the yellow line. I know that I touched it because in Mississippi, they have “dingers” that vibrate your car when it touches the line (they're farther outside the lane of travel in Florida). I explained why I was on the yellow line but he apparently wasn't satisfied.

He asked if I had any weapons. I told him about my pocket knife. He asked about firearms or EXPLOSIVES! I thought for a minute because I had considered bringing my 9 with me, but left it at home because I didn't check the state laws of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana before leaving. He asked if I was sure again. He said “so if I search this car, I wouldn't find any guns?” HBF. No. He inquired further into drugs. He asked if I had cocaine, meth, heroin, I can't even remember what other drugs he asked about. After each of my responses he asked again if I was sure. He kept pushing the “are you sure you don't have just a small amount of marijuana” line. He asked if I would allow him to search “the interior and exterior” of my car. I don't know the Mississippi law, but in Florida you don't have to let them search. He told me that I didn't have to let him, but I got the feeling that he might pull something if I declined. I asked how long it would take and he inquired if I was in a hurry. I told him that I just wanted to beat the Mobile rush hour traffic. He assured me that I could meet my goal no problem even after a search. I told him that he could for the sake of thoroughness.

He had me pop the trunk then get out of the car while he inspected. The first thing he picked up was a funnel wrapped in plastic bags on top of my spare tire. I explained that it's an older car and sometimes needs fluids. He pilfered through other stuff then set his sights on my backpack. He asked was was in the bag. I told him teaching materials, among other things. He seemed surprised that I teach. I told him I'm teaching second half of summer at FSU. He asked what class. I really don't know why every detail was so important. He looked in a few of the pockets. He saw my bag of dirty laundry. I invited him to search the pockets of my soiled pants. He decided that would be unnecessary. He took my license back to the SUV-cruiser and did who knows what with it. I know he copied my plate. He came back with my license and I asked if I needed to sign something. He said that this was just a warning and to drive safely and have a nice day.

A couple miles down the road, I realized that I might have been pulled over for an entirely different reason. I was wondering why he was pushing the drug thing. Maybe it was because of my car. I drive a not-so-new Grand Marquis with tinted windows and a Florida plate. I know that a lot of drugs run from Florida to the west on I-10. I guess that any excuse to pull over a ghetto-mobile with a high likelihood of carrying drugs could be beneficial. I realize that he didn't pat me down to search for “any small amount” of drugs on my person. I guess he realized halfway through the questioning that I was not in the business of breaking the law but he had to keep up the show.

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