I am now becoming worried about what may happen the next time I get pulled over. Especially if I unknowingly fit the description of a suspect that is considered dangerous. I didn’t worry about this before despite the fact that I have been profiled and prejudged by police on almost every encounter I’ve had with them. Hearing about innocent people being killed by police I now reflect and worry based on what has always happened to me.
For those that don’t know me, I am Mexican, I am a male born in San Jose CA and I always keep my hair shaved. With just that description I’m sure you already painted a picture of me. Unfortunately my appearance puts me in a category. It’s not a good category. My appearance and type of vehicles that I have driven have gotten me pulled over many times. I didn’t worry too much about it simply because I have been prejudged based on appearance for most of my life. But there is a difference now as compared to then, I have a family that depends on me. I need them just as much as they need me and with deadly police shootings becoming a normal news story as of late, I am worried.
I want to describe some of my encounters with being pulled over so that you can understand where I’m coming from.
I was pulled over once because my registration showed up as expired. This wasn’t true because I had paid my registration a few days prior and it was paid a full year in advance. During the “routine” traffic stop, my car was searched thoroughly. I don’t do drugs and I don’t sell drugs so with no surprise nothing was found. All the police officer had to offer as an explanation was that the registration may have shown expired because I had paid for it too far in advance. Huh??
There was another incident where I had parked in a red zone inside of an apartment complex. A police officer happened to be driving by so he pulled up behind my truck and began asking for my license and registration. After everything checked out he began scolding me about being parked in a red zone. I had made a comment that I was only there for a second waiting on someone and that I wasn’t going to leave my car at all. That only aggravated him to the point where he started yelling at me and telling me that he could take me to jail if he wanted to. I decided to let him finish his rant and eventually he got back in his car and left but not before telling me to make better decisions next time.
There was another time I was pulled over because I didn’t make a complete stop at a turn that had a red light. Fair enough. I was then asked if he could search my car. I agreed because I had nothing to hide. A second police officer pulled up and was watching me while the first police officer searched my car. Everything was pulled out of every compartment. My car was a mess and of course they didn’t find whatever it was they thought they would find. I was let go and the first officer that was searching my car seemed really pissed that he didn’t find anything. So pissed that I guess he forgot to cite me for not doing a complete stop at the light. He just drove off while his partner gave me that look like he knew it was BS and said, have a nice evening.
There were a couple times that I was pulled over for a blown out brake light. My car was searched in both of those occasions and I was let go when they couldn’t find anything. I went to check the brake light afterwards and it was working. It wasn’t blown out…..it happened twice!
I can go on and on about my experiences on every occasion I was pulled over but I think you could get the picture from the examples I mentioned. In addition, I have been followed by police several times but I guess they couldn’t find a good enough reason to pull me over so they eventually would drive off.
The type of cars that I was driving during this stretch of time was a 1990 Honda Accord and a 2000 GMC Sierra. I believe that a combination of being profiled and the type of vehicle I was driving was the main reason why I was pulled over and followed so many times. I now drive a family van and since driving that van I haven’t been pulled over once (knock on wood).
Being profiled was just something that has always happened to me but with how things are going lately, I’m worried. I’m worried that I might fit the description of a wanted suspect and I may not be given the chance to prove who I am. I’m worried that one day I may not make it back home because of a lack of police training or necessary changes to procedures or enforcement of proper procedures are not taking place. Police officers are to be held with a higher standard because of what they have been trusted to do, serve and protect. They have been trusted to carry a deadly weapon to help them serve and protect.
I get it, I know what I look like. It’s what I chose because that is how I am comfortable. I’ve been dealing with the prejudging “looks” most of my life. It hasn’t been an issue until now because I want to make it back home and not worry about what might happen the next time I am pulled over.
My heart goes out to all of the families affected by recent deadly police shootings and the police offers that were recently shot to death. I pray that you find peace and I pray that we as a people along with those that we put in power find peace and love.
PS. I don’t have anything against police. I salute them as they put their lives on the line every day they go to work. Along with the bad experiences I’ve also had good experiences even though I was pulled over. There are plenty of good police officers out there but the signs that something is wrong internally is very apparent and something needs to change.