He was wearing orange shorts. He was 19 years old and looked every bit like the stereotypical college stoner. He was standing on the platform for the light-rail and just staring at his phone. He interacted with no one, said nothing, just stood there in the sunshine.
The officer was probably pissed off just looking at him. The officer worked for the local university and this was not an uncommon feeling amongst them.
The officer attempted to call him over. The kid didn’t seem to hear him or, according to the officer, was purposefully ignoring him. The officer called to him again. There was eye contact and the officer motioned for him to come over. Mr. Orange Shorts stayed where he was and went back to looking at his phone.
The officer yelled at MOS to come over to him “right fucking now!”. MOS seemed to think he had done nothing wrong, so he shook his head “no” to the officer’s command.
The officer tells dispatch he has a belligerent subject standing on the platform and he is going to make contact. “He’s not listening to me” he tells dispatch. Mr. Orange Shorts takes off running.
He runs onto the light-rail tracks and the officer pursues. He radios to dispatch that he is in foot pursuit and begins describing the subject and his heading.
At this point, as is standard operating procedure, dispatch asks: “What is the probable cause for the pursuit?”.
Already breathing hard, the officer replies: “He ran onto the tracks!”
Let me remind you here that OFFICERS WRITE THE NARRATIVE. Officers are selected, then complete an 18 to 22 week course, and are then sworn to uphold the law. They are the bastions of honor and integrity.
They are also, a lot of times, completely full of shit. The reports are written to make the suspect look guilty and the officer look good in taking them off the streets. It’s worse when you piss the officers off. It should not be personal, yet it seems to go that route too often.
It is good when actual bad persons are appropriately punished for their misdeeds. How can you always know the difference?
The officer had lost sight of Mr. Orange Shorts. An Olympic runner the officer was not. University police dispatch had put it out on the mutual aid frequency for any nearby available units to assist their officer with the pursuit. Another officer and I responded. Not long after, we found Mr. Orange Shorts sitting on a curb, sweating, and breathing heavily. He didn’t resist. We let dispatch know where we were. Not too far from the initial point of contact.
The officer approached us and began to give his version of events. By the time he had arrived, I had searched (no contraband or weapons found fyi) and already spoken with Mr. Orange Shorts about what happened from his view. He said he ran because he was scared.
The officer wanted to charge him with failure to comply with an order and [passive] resisting arrest (both misdemeanors. He was so mad that he also wanted to add unlawful flight (a felony), but it was pointed out to him that Mr. Orange Shorts wasn’t driving a vehicle.
I asked the officer what MOS was doing when he attempted to make contact.
Officer: “He disobeyed my orders and then ran onto the tracks.”
Me: “Yeah, but how did he get your attention? What was he doing?”
This is where I should mention that, as officers responding on an agency assist, an addendum to the primary officer’s report needed to be written. What I was called for, what I witnessed, my actions during the incident, etc.
I asked again: “What did he do exactly?”
Officer: “He was acting sketchy and didn’t come to me when he was ordered to do so. Then he ran away from me onto the tracks. It was a good stop.”
I disagreed and so did my fellow officer. Correlation does not imply causation.
I do not know what I would have been able to do had one of my partners not been there. He and I conferred for a few minutes and then let the officer know that we would not cosign on this arrest. Even his dispatch had no idea what the actual reason for the contact was. The on-duty Sergeant arrived and we explained our rationale and he agreed.
Mr. Orange Shorts was free to go.
I am highlighting this event because of something that has troubled me for a long time. College students, like MOS, often can get charged for nothing more than pissing off the officers in the university police department. These charges, some serious-some not, and whether they get convicted or not, can follow them for years. They can miss out on job opportunities and have the trajectory of their lives altered irreparably.
This predominantly affects Black students.
Mr. Orange Shorts could have been Pablo Escobar or Jeffrey Dahmer then or in the future, but as I saw it, he didn’t commit an arrestable offense that day. He just pissed off an officer with a sensitive ego, obviously the most serious of crimes, by merely existing.
McSquirrel yada, yada, yada.