Philadelphia Metropolis


Cops Behaving Badly

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Angry Cop.jpgBy Mike Burke

An experience I had this summer has changed my opinion of those dedicated "to protect and serve" us in Philadelphia. Let me set the scene. My friends and I were on the Broad Street Line, heading South Philadelphia for Game 1 of Flyers/Devils playoff. Having tied one on the night before, none of us were planning on tailgating until we got to the stadium. I had a cup of coffee, my roommate was sitting with his girlfriend and having a beer, and there were two other people with us, neither one drinking. It was about noon.

When we got to the station, my roommate grabbed his two empty cans and walked into the station to throw them away. There was a police officer there (who looked like he had just gone to prom), but we paid him no mind, as we're all 26, and not in the habit of running afoul of the law. He approached my roommate and started talking to him about something, so we stood and waited.

The next thing we knew, a different officer escorted the other five of us out of the station, informing us he didn't, "need us there for our friend to show off for." The young officer who was arresting my roommate called for back up, and promptly handcuffed him.

I realize the letter of the law states that it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol in public. However, this law is conveniently ignored any time there is a holiday, parade, block party, sporting event, or sunshine. Not to mention, if this law is broken, I'm relatively sure standard procedure is to write a ticket, not handcuff and intimidate.

I can understand arresting him if he was vomiting, or 16, or harassing other train passengers, but we were sitting and talking (not to mention too hung over for any kind of shenanigans like that). For all that officer knew, we found empty beer cans on the train and were picking them up. Not to mention the public humiliation of being handcuffed in a crowded train station and forced to sit on the floor while four (four!) police officers read you the riot act.

The cops were making arrogant, asinine comments the entire time. Our "police escort" told us it was the arresting officer's first month of work, and he was trying to make an example of my roommate, something he would never consider doing, as he was a "cool guy". The arresting officer told my roommate he saw him get off the train with his girlfriend and walk to the trash can, but then felt like he was giving him attitude. If we arrested everyone who gave attitude in this city, my morning commute on 76 would be much easier.

What happened to freedom of speech? I was escorted from the station for asking what was going on. My roommate was repeatedly told to shut up because of his "attitude." When did police officers become a protected class of citizens that we couldn't argue with, lest we destroy their fragile psyche?

This was complete overkill. When you hear about what goes on in this city on a daily basis; flash mobs, break-ins, shootings, even rowdy bar fights are more of a problem then six people with two beers. Isn't there something else those four officers could have been doing that day? My car has been broken into twice in the four years I've lived in the city, and I couldn't even get a cop to come look at it, much less pursue the matter.

I have a profound respect for police. My grandfather was a New York City Police Inspector, and served for more than 30 years in the NYPD. I simply do not understand why this kid decided to make an example of us on a Sunday. There was no lasting harm done, none of us is traumatized, my roommate was furious but he got over it, we're all adults. Later, he was found guilty of disorderly conduct and carrying an open container.  His "sentence" was to go to several AA meetings.

All that said, it's depressing to live in a city where the news is filled with reports of crime, vandalism, and violence, and then experience police officers acting like this. I fully believe we're all better than that.

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