He gave me three tickets: one for jumping the red light, one for operating the motorcycle at night (in Georgia you can’t ride your motorcycle at night for the first six months) and one for an expired license (my license had expired four days earlier). But to make matters worse he told me he couldn’t let me get back on my bike because of all of the violations.
“Can I park my bike somewhere and take an Uber home?”
“I can’t let you drive that bike anywhere.” He said. “Call one of your friends and have them drive it for you.”
But by that time it was 2:00 in the morning and most of my friends were asleep, and besides only one of them had a motorcycle license.
“If you can’t find anyone, we’ll have to get it towed.”
I asked if I could call my friend Tieuanh who is 5’2’’ but drove a Ford F150.
“How will that help the situation?”
“I can put my motorcycle in the back of her truck.”
“How will you get it up there?”
I looked across the street to a 24 hour diner. “I’ll go into the diner and ask four people to help me lift it.” (My bike weighed several hundred pounds. In retrospect I don’t think four people could have lifted it into the F150. I also didn’t think about how we’d get it down if we DID get it up there.)
The cop thought about it.
“You can call your friend.” He said. “I’ll wait for her to arrive.”
“There’s just one other problem.” I said sheepishly. “My phone is about to die – there is only 2% - 3% left on the battery.”
“You can charge it in my car.”
So we walked back to the cop’s car and I sat in the passenger seat and plugged my phone in. I called Tieuanh and the cop agreed to wait 20 minutes until she got there.
When Tieuanh arrived the officer said, “Okay, I trust that you won’t ride your bike and I will leave you here.”
We parked my bike on the side of the road and had started driving home when I realized I didn’t have my phone! It was still charging in the cop’s car! I used Tieuanh’s phone to frantically search the Atlanta Police Department’s directory.
Finally Tieuanh was like, “Why don’t you just call your phone?”
So I called my phone and sure enough the police officer answered. He told me he would wait for us in a parking lot. We found him and I walked away with my phone and a great story.
My third encounter with police happened at the court appearance for the tickets I received. That morning I couldn’t find a parking spot and decided to park in between two cars. The moment I parked, a lady officer walked over to me.
“Sir – you can’t park there.”
She pointed out a parking lot nearby where I could park. I thanked her and parked my bike in the lot she mentioned.
When I entered the court room I discovered that the same officer who had helped me outside was presiding over my case. I couldn’t stop smiling at her and she smiled back. When I was in front of her she cancelled two of my tickets and since it was my first offense I only had to pay 50% of the fine on the third. So instead of paying $900 I only had to pay $175.
Almost all societies are distrustful of their police and our society is no different. Anyone who says that he or she is not biased is either a god or does not exist. But when we let our biases become prejudices we become harmful to ourselves and society at large.
There are three lessons I learned from this encounter. First, a smile is disarming and can change the whole interaction you have with someone. Second, always be conscious of your biases and don’t let them dictate your behavior. Do we have control over our biases, or do our biases control us? Third, we need to acknowledge that police brutality exists and needs to be stamped out, but we shouldn’t be automatically distrustful of the officers who are there to help us.
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