December 9, 2014
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N. W.
Washington, D. C. 20500
Dear Mr. President,
I have never undertaken writing to my President before. Thank you for your recent comment that police victimization of Americans is not an entirely race-based issue. I have had a devastating personal experience as such a victim. I am, not that it should matter in any way, a 65 year old, white, Masters Degree educated, "middle class" professional who is now adjudicated as a violent offender. This violation is false, but that has no importance. The court has ruled.
In October 2010 I experienced a severe life crisis. As was the case with all too many of us, I lost my job in July 2010 in the economic upheaval. I had been Executive Director of a charity serving people with developmental disabilities and their families. In mid July 2010, I awakened to the first day I'd had in thirty-five years as an unemployed American. Additionally, earlier that year, I'd suffered two major hospitalizations/surgeries, one of which was a nearly life ending emergency, and both my parents died: my mother from Alzheimers, and my father from old age and grief. I was their only child. I was emotionally devastated.
I began drinking too much. One morning while instant messaging with a close intimate friend, who knew how upset I'd been, I made what I thought was an off-handed comment that I might as well just kill myself. I was not serious or actually contemplating any such action, but my friend did not understand that. She phoned 9-1-1 and told them she feared I was going to kill myself.
By the time the police arrived at my condominium I had left home to shop in a nearby Walmart. I was shocked to receive a voicemail from a police detective on my cell phone telling me he needed to speak with me. I phoned him back to tell him I was at Walmart and to arrange to connect with him. He told me that "oddly enough" he happened to be in the very same Walmart parking lot at that very moment. I arranged to meet him at my car in the parking lot and left the store.
The Detective approached me and told me that he had received a call concerning my attempting suicide. I explained it was all a great misunderstanding. As we met in the parking lot a couple more police cars joined us with lights flashing. Then others arrived. In a very short while I was surrounded by about 8 officers some with bullet-proof vests, and military-like helmets, and dogs, and assault rifles. Some of them were joking with each other about how many of those old folks in my condominium community they had scared while out for morning walks, searching for me with vests, helmets, rifles, and dogs.
They all gathered around me engaged in what became sort of a group interrogation. I felt very much like a second grade child surrounded by a group of high school bullies. They handcuffed me. They asked me questions about my relationship with the woman who had called them. They told me I should end my relationship with her. They at one point ran into my shoulder (I'd told them that I had serious arthritis in that shoulder and needed a shoulder replacement). They questioned if I wanted to fight them. They tried to provoke me to make some sort of aggressive action. They searched me and found nothing incriminating. They checked me out and found I had no previous police record. They wanted to search my car, but I declined, which clearly did not please them, but they respected my right to refuse that search. Eventually I was able to play into these cops’ biases by lapsing into talking about how this was a result of the craziness of a woman: that women were the source of all men's problems. I feigned agreement with them on this to try to manipulate the situation, playing on their misogeny. Before long, we were all standing there, grunting and scratching, and griping about how "evil bitches were the cause of all men’s problems"...except that I was in handcuffs surrounded by armed menacing police and dogs. Then the largest of the officers "got in my face" to tell me that I had wanted attention, and I sure had gotten it, and if this ever happened again they would come and lock me up and confiscate my car and wreck my life, etc. They finally let me go. I was shaken so badly it was difficult to drive home.
The next few days I went into a paranoid crisis. The following Sunday night....Halloween...I drank until I was very intoxicated. I was sure the police were going to come find me and kill me. I was home alone, but phoned my wife who was with our friend who had called 9-1-1 that preceding Thursday. They called 9-1-1 again.
At 2:30 AM that morning I was at home, alone, asleep (passed out) on my living room couch. I awakened to find myself surrounded by five police officers who pounced on me, cuffed me, and carried me kicking and screaming from my home. When they got me outside I was confronted by dozens of police and emergency vehicles with flashing lights, and my wife and my friend. My wife came over to try to calm me and tell me not to fight the police. I didn't understand at all what was happening to me, but that armed thugs had entered my home and were forcibly carrying me from my home. In my struggling, one of my flailing feet connected with my wife. The police screamed I had committed domestic violence and threw me in the back of a car and drove me to jail. I was charged with domestic violence and inducing panic.
I really did not understand what had happened or where I was. They kept me nude in a solitary cell, with no bedding, or toilet paper, or even a cup (suicide watch) for three days. Once I was taken out, dressed, and hauled to court for an arraignment. I told the judge I didn't understand where I was and why. He said that likely I was psychotic and needed to be in forensic care. Eventually, I was convicted, served time, and completed probation. I no longer drink and never will again. I have been treated continuously since that time for PTSD including psychiatric hospitalization. I can never work again. No one wants to hire a 65 year old man who has been unemployed for four years, and has these two convictions.
I am by no means arguing that my experience demonstrates police abuse is not a racial problem, but that I, an educated white middle-class professional, was subjected to this devastatingly horrid victimization by the uniformed thugs who used their police powers to "protect and serve" me. I was at that time a 5 foot seven inch tall, 150 pound, elderly man, with two replaced knees and, diabetes, and severely arthritic shoulders, hardly a menacing physical specimen who represented any threat to our community or its police.
During my time in the Warren County, Ohio jail, stories like mine were not atypical among inmates, and I would attest that likely about 20% of inmates were black. That may not seem, at first blush, to be a very telling statistic, until one considers that my community is likely 97% white in its racial composition.
Thank you for stating that the problem of abuse of police powers is not only an issue of racial discrimination but a human rights issue. The assault on Americans’ rights by police, whether we are white, or black, or Hispanic, or whatever background is endemic and devastating to our society.
My life is ruined. Once, The Ohio General Assembly passed a resolution honoring me as “one of Ohio's finest citizens” for my work in community organizing with people with disabilities and their families. When I look in the mirror today, I see only a pathetic broken old criminal standing before the court in chains and sandals, in tears, pleading to go home.
I know this is long. If someone has waded through it, please take my experience into consideration as you address the endemic problems of police abusing Americans like me. If this should reach your eyes Mr. President, thank you for reading and listening. It is an honor to even think something I might write about my life could ever come to your attention.
By the way, I was once an honorary member of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association while I directed a nonprofit in Toledo. I am not a chronic "cop hater," but the police I met in these incidents were, in my opinion, armed, hired, assaultive thugs and the rest of my life is wrecked by their abuse.