I have not posted very much on Gather in a while for a couple of reasons. One reason is because I have not had many read my posts. Another reason is because for the last two months my family and I have been going through one of the most difficult experiences of our lives.
I am going to try one more time but if there are only a few readers then I am going to start a blog and may anyway. I have posted this post on another site but have not had anyone read it. This post needs to be read. It is about an experience I hope that no other Gather member will ever have to experience but I am afraid that it will be increasingly more common.
Good Guys, Bad Guys & Badges
I was raised to respect the law and the job law enforcement officers do. I am now and have always been a law abiding citizen with the exception of a few traffic violations. I have taught my children to also respect laws and those who enforce them. My wife and I have shared our respect for laws and for those who enforce laws with our children. For a long time I have been aware of rogue cops making the news from time to time but felt like just as there were a few bad teachers in education there were a few bad cops in law enforcement. Recent events in my life have caused me to not be so sure that there are just a few bad cops in law enforcement but possibly there are a great many, at least in the south.
About three months ago my son made some bad choices which allowed him to get on the wrong side of the law at least for a little while. He deserved whatever consequences that resulted from those choices, His mother, sister, fiance and I did not.
On the day our nightmare began my wife and I had just come home from a shopping trip in Atlanta which was a 6 hours round trip for us. We were very tired and were glad to see our home as we pulled into our long drive way. We parked our car near our house glad for finally getting home. This was a routine that we had done so many times before without even thinking about it. This was to be the last time we would ever park our car without thinking about it.
Just after we left our car we saw a long line of black SUVs and sheriff cars pulling up behind our driveway. All kinds of law enforcement officers poured out of these cars. My wife and I were in shock. We had no reason to believe that anyone who lived at our home had done anything that would bring these people to our house. I in fact thought they had the wrong house. I was wrong.
Almost before they got close enough for us to hear they were making comments and firing questions at us. The first comment that I heard was, "There was an illegal activity in the next county. We know that your son was involved in it. You know something about what your son was involved in what do you know?." This began 4 hours of lies, half truths, bullying, accusations, intimidation and threats directed not just at my son whom they escorted home from work but at us as well. Through it all we kept hearing, "We know what your son, brother, fiance did we just have to prove it. Why don't you all confess to what you know and what you did? It will be much better and easier for you if you do." We already had told them everything we knew which was almost nothing. My son was the only one of us who know what did or didn't happen in the next county.
Their attempt at browbeating us that night did not end until they had a search warrant for our house. In his room they found what they thought was evidence, it wasn't. With their "evidence" in hand they happily left our house with a parting cry, "We'll be back."
They were true to their word. They came back and came back and came back for the next five days. On the fifth day they arrested my son. The arresting officer did not tell him or me why they were arresting him. All that was said was that when they proved what he did he would be in prison for a very long time. Ninety minutes later an investigator from the crime team came to my house to try to get me to talk again. It was only then that I learned what my son was arrested for. He informed me that their investigation would continue until we talked.
To us this was nothing less than harassment. What made the nightmare worse was that the harassment did not end at his arrest. For the next two weeks our lives were interrupted many times by law enforcement. They pulled us aside while we were doing business in our community to talk to us. They asked the same questions over and over again in many different ways but always the same questions. It was always about our involvement in the alleged crime. They frequently drove by our house, pulling into our driveway a little ways only to drive back out onto the road in front of our house going back the way they came. It is hard to know when they stopped the harassment or even if they have.
These men with badges caused more damage to us and to them than they can imagine. Some painful lessons we learned include but are not limited to: Just because you are silent does not mean that you are safe. The men with badges by law can and will by your silence say that you admitted guilt. Only when you plead the right to remain silent or plead the fifth can you remove that possibility. Anything you say to law enforcement officers even before you have been charged with a crime and read your Miranda rights can and probably will be used against you in a court of law. No matter what you tell the men with badges they will twist your words in a way that you admit guilt even when you haven't. For me if God forbid one day I witness a crime, I will have to plead the right to remain silent when men with badges question me. The men with badges taught me that. The danger in not doing so is for law enforcement officers to somehow twist my words to indicate that I did not just witness a crime but in fact actually participated in it. I am not willing to take that kind of a risk.
Every day in the news there are men and women who are arrested and charged with crimes. Some are found guilty of what they are charged with doing while others are found innocent. Those who are found innocent are victims too. Their lives will be changed forever. One of the most frequently done crimes is the crime of stealing, The dictionary tells us that stealing is the act of taking something without right that belongs to someone else. These men with badges stole from us more than we can ever get back. They stole the feeling of security that trusting law enforcement officers gave us and replaced it with a sense of fear and dread that we never had before the men with badges came up our driveway. This is a fear that we will never lose. Every law enforcement officer we see, every officer we come in direct contact with we will wonder when he will turn on us again lying, bullying and pushing us to get us to admit to something we did not do even as we actively obey all laws. They stole from us a sense of peace that we once had in our own home and made us always wary of sudden sounds and movements that only makes us feel less secure.
To me what they took from us was a criminal act, one that there is no law against and one that they will never be charged for. The best way for our communities to be safer is for law enforcement and communities to work together. For this to happen law enforcement and communities must have established trust between them. As far as my family and I are concerned the men with badges stole that from us. The great tragedy of this experience is that for at least one family in one county in the south the law enforcement officers that made our lives so awful have made an already difficult job that much difficult for all the men with badges.