I had my first encounter with police abuse when I was 14 years old. Of course this was WAY back before cell phones had video cameras. Hell, this is back before cell phones! How old am I? I was playing army in my neighborhood and was snatched up by a cop who took me home.
I used to live in a small town in Jersey. My parents’ backyard butted up to a little wetland/wooded area known as “the woods.” I can remember when I was younger, you’d walk through the woods to get to the other side of town. It was a shortcut. Anyway, most of the neighborhood kids hung out back there. We’d play army, build forts and ride bikes. We had made a little BMX trail through it. We had races sometimes and things like that.
Well one night, I was playing Army back there, and I ventured around to the front of the house to see how I could work the urban element into the game! It was the 70’s, man, we had a LOT more freedom as children back then. Once I learned how to ride a bike, I was barely home. I’d ride my bike 3 miles to school, across Rte 9, weaving in and out of traffic. Let me tell you, the reason it’s called a “Jersey stop” at a stop sign, is so you can see well enough to see if any kids riding a bike are going dart in front of you at the last second, before you decide to go!
So, I was out after dark, I had my favorite toy gun with me, and I was running around shooting bad guys and what have you. I went out to the front of the house and I started hiding behind cars, going in and out between the houses and stuff. Now, my neighbors all knew me to do these kinds of things so no one ever called the cops on us back then. I went down the street, came back up to my house, trying to keep to the shadows the whole time, and all of a sudden I saw a cop car. I ducked of course, and he rode by. I thought nothing of it. I just pretended he was another enemy to avoid.
As I continued my games, I jumped in the back of our neighbor’s pick up truck. The cop drove by, and I lifted my head up to see if he was gone and I heard, “SCHRREEEEECHHHH!” I jumped out of the truck and made a bee line for my house, but he was bigger and faster and caught me. I turned to see this Gomer looking cop, who got a hold on the back of my neck, and squeezed! He was shaking me! He turned me around and started with a million questions.
“Where do you live?” “What the f*ck are you doing out here?” Blah, blah, blah. I told him where I lived and he dragged my ass up to my front door and rang the bell. I tried saying something and he slapped me in the back of the head and said, “Shut up a**hole.” He was scowling and speaking through his teeth and rumbling, like the way my dad would tell me he was angry in public. So, I shut up and waited for the GREATER threat to answer the door!
My dad answered and this sergeant slaughter looking pig started telling my dad about how I’m an idiot and all, and my dad grabbed me, threw me in the house, and gave that gomer the business! “Who the f*ck are you to tell me how to raise my kid… ETC.” The cop took an inch long butterfly knife off me and tried to tell my dad it was a weapon and all that nonsense. I’ll never forget my father said to him, “Are you kidding me? He’s in the boy scouts, he’s taught to ALWAYS have a knife in his pocket, and this thing wouldn’t hurt a f*cking fly, so what the hell are you talking about?”
He then told the cop to get off his porch, and turned and started yelling at me! I didn’t care. I was happy to see him stick up for me like that. We ended up laughing about it, but that was the end of my running around the neighborhood with toy guns and only the beginning of my experience with police brutality.
The funny thing is, my own son did the same damn thing! He was brought home by Parma police when he was 14 for running around the neighborhood with a toy gun! Only his was airsoft, so I was more angry that I didn’t have that when I was a kid!
The climate has certainly changed since I did it. Now, kids that engage in this very same behavior are being shot dead by police. I had to be even harder on my son than my father was on me, because he could’ve been killed! I guess if you think about it, I could have been too! The difference is there were not a lot of school shootings, or gun violence in the late 70’s, early 80’s, if any – at least not in this little neighborhood. We were encouraged to train with weapons in school. I was a member of the boy scouts for a good deal of my young life. We learned to shoot guns when I was 10. I was always active outdoors. We were allowed to take archery in high school. Then, something changed and a simple pocketknife is now a weapon.
After the butterfly knife incident, I got myself the best swiss army knife I could get at the time. I still have the same model to this day. I would love to tell you it’s the same one I had then, but I can’t. Some cop wanted it more than I did and confiscated it. I guess you can call that theft the second encounter with police abuse. I was never charged with anything and my knife just disappeared! It was an expensive swiss army knife. He told me because I had it inside my pocket, it was a concealed weapon. When I got a new one, I got a nice leather sheath for it too.
Everything was fine for a few years, until I’d encounter some hot shot cop with something to prove, and all of sudden my SWISS ARMY KNIFE was a weapon again. My knife, that I had carried most of my life, was a weapon. I started noticing the nicer the knife, the more they wanted to separate me from it, so I had to stop carrying a knife.
To this day, the law on carried knives is mostly muddled. Purposefully so I believe, so a cop can say a pocketknife is a weapon, as a catch all! It’s like the disorderly persons charge of weapons. How can you claim a swiss army knife or a leatherman is a weapon? Unless it’s used to stick some guy in the *ss! So let me get this straight – you can walk around with a gun strapped to your waist, but if you have a pocket knife on you too, you go to jail? It makes no sense!