Wrong action, wrong time

I was stopped by police for suspicion of armed robbery.

Okay, it happened in 1987, but I first, I didn’t do it, and second, I was the “victim” of profiling. Seems I was driving aggressively and at a high rate of speed, through a large parking lot, and subsequently past a gas station that was closed, then onto the Interstate at well above the posted limit. At least that’s the Deputy’s story.

I was pulled over, ordered to stick my hands out the window and keep them visible, and even made to drop the ice cream cone I was holding. Looking in the rear view mirror and seeing the Officer Friendly with his hand on his gun, appealed to my lowest need for survival, which is to not die by head shot.

The Deputy took my information, checked me out and then apologized and said that the gas station I drove by had just been robbed, and that while my car didn’t exactly fit the description, my actions were very suspicious. Maybe I should have sued him for profiling. The man could have at least bought me another ice cream cone (see, I’d just gotten sort of fired from my job at the video store and I was upset, so I bought some ice cream, ’cause that makes you feel better, and . . . well, never mind).

About 8 years ago, I was pulled over again under suspicion of “cruising,” which is now apparently illegal on the street I used to cruise on in high school. I should note that I was in my late 30s at this time and driving my very pregnant wife who was at the time in her late 20s. Boy, did we fit THAT cruiser profile – actually, we just happened to be on the road to our home from the movie theater. Other times in my life I’ve been in the wrong place or near the wrong people and have been questioned by police, asked for my ID, told to move along. I should probably have sued them all for profiling – that or I’m just a bad egg.

On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, three individuals were questioned after exhibiting what passengers felt was suspicious behavior on a Frontier Airlines flight. Click here for story. One of the individuals is now very upset and is blogging and talking to the ACLU about her options. I’m NOT saying she doesn’t have cause. I have plenty of friends who have been pulled over on suspicion of DWB (Driving While Black, is the term they use) and I can understand that when people resemble the people who hijacked planes on 9/11, the hackles of others with different skin color can get rankled. Heck, I still don’t like seeing red 2WD Toyota pickup trucks because I once had a neighbor that drove one and when he wasn’t busy serving time, he was trying to crowbar his way into a townhome I lived in.

What I am saying is that regardless of the outcome of her case or complaint, people should NOT stop reporting what they feel is suspicious activity. It’s not just the times we live in, it’s our society. I’ve called on suspicious vehicles in my neighborhood about four times. Three times it was nothing – the fourth was a vehicle used in a string of burglaries in my neighborhood. Had I stopped after the third call, just due to embarrassment of what the local police would think about the guy “crying wolf” all the time, then perhaps the fourth call would not have happened and criminals would have gotten another free pass.

Several years ago, a group of Muslim musicians exhibited what passengers believed was suspicious behavior on a Northwest Airlines flight. They were detained, questioned and released – then they sued the airlines and the passengers. Was their real intent to prevent or make people think twice about reporting suspicious activity in the future so some future plot could be successful? Did they really feel they were singled out due to their race and deserved compensation for pain and suffering? Or was this a security test?

I know the answer to the last question.

Whether the musicians intended on conducting a test of airline security, they did anyway. Even innocent passengers are conducting “tests” when they are stopped for suspicious activity, because those that intend to attack us again, are always watching. They are watching to see how we will react – what the outcome and reaction will be.  If they learn that passengers are not reporting suspicious activity anymore out of fear of reprisals, then that’s valuable information for them. If they learn the types of activities that were reported as suspicious, then that’s information for them. If they learn that we are still reporting, regardless of lawsuit threats or fears of being embarrassed, then that’s good information we want them to know.

Frankly, I’ve exhibited suspicious behaviors on flights that should have gone reported. I’ve been into and out of my overhead bag several times – mainly because I have a six-second attention span and usually forget what I was trying to find by the time I get my seat belt off. I’ve spent plenty of time in the lavatory, on a flight back from Cancun once (you figure it out). And being middle aged now, I’ve made multiple trips to the restroom and even hung out doing some stretches near the flight attendant stations. Had I been pulled aside, I would have put down any ice cream I was carrying, politely answered questions from law enforcement, then went about my way. But that’s just me. I don’t want people to be afraid to report suspicious activity, even if I’m the one doing it.

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