Whatever Happened To “To Protect And Serve”

Photo by thisisbossi via Flickr

I was walking home from the Glenmont metro station the other day. I just submitted another post about something else that happened when I walked home from the metro, so clearly this is something I need to avoid. How messed up is it when you can’t even walk home anymore?

This was during the afternoon, broad daylight. I was wearing a T-shirt dress. It was very hot outside. A police car was driving down the street at the same time I was about to cross. He yielded to me (which I guess drivers are technically supposed to do, but I despise it because it gives drivers a long chance to check you out). Then he drove forward a little, pulled over, and rolled his window down.

He was a police officer, so I felt like I had to talk to him. He’d been driving slowly and I thought maybe something had happened in the neighborhood he wanted to either ask or warn me about. So I approached his car.

“I just wanted to tell you that you’re absolutely gorgeous. Is it ok for me to tell you that?”

I smiled awkwardly and waited, honestly still thinking he wanted to talk to me about some neighborhood police issue. He kept going on about how gorgeous I was. He bragged about how he was on his way to the gym. He asked where I lived, and I gestured vaguely and said, “Over there,” unsure if he was going to make me show him my house. He kept asking me questions, how old I was, who I live with, what my profession is, and I answered reluctantly, trying to figure out if this was sketch or not. As always my instincts were right; I don’t know why I didn’t cut the conversation off earlier. He found out I speak Spanish and made me say a few sentences as though I was on display just for him. He kept pressing me to give him my number and I said no several times but he kept pressing. Finally I figured out that I needed to get away and I hurried off; he didn’t drive away until I was gone, enjoying the view of my ass I suppose.

He was polite and his comments were much more respectful than your garden-variety street harasser. But I think he knew he was making me uncomfortable, and he deliberately used his power and position as a police officer to ensnare me. He was able to get much more information from me than I’d give to any other stranger simply because he was in a squad car. He didn’t technically do anything wrong, and I did appreciate the compliment because it seemed sincere, but I was disgusted with the way he used his power to get to me. He made me feel much less safe in my neighorhood. Not only because his gaze and power unnerved me, but because I’m scared now if I report other incidents this cop will take the side of my harasser.

I’ve seen reports of firefighters on this site, but has anyone else had issues with DC or MoCo police?

Submitted by Anonymous on 6/25/2010

Location: Glenallan Avenue and Randolph Road

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault you would like to submit? Just click here and fill out the online submission form. All submissions are posted anonymously unless you specify.

5 responses to “Whatever Happened To “To Protect And Serve”

  1. Golden Silence

    He didn’t technically do anything wrong…

    Yes, he did. He used his police car and status as an officer to “holla” at you. He deliberately put you on the spot and made you uncomfortable. Instead of giving him the answers he wanted, you should’ve asked for his badge information and reported him to Mont. Co Police.

    …so clearly this is something I need to avoid. How messed up is it when you can’t even walk home anymore?

    No, you shouldn’t have to avoid walking home…these harassers need to avoid bothering women who aren’t interested in them!

  2. I wish you would have gotten his name or badge number or car number or something, but even if you didn’t, call the community relations dept. (do they have something like that?) at Metro Police and tell your story. Cops abusing their power need to be reprimanded, at the very least.

  3. I had a similar experience to this and, like you, was really confused and took a long time to react, which I felt really bad about and berated myself for later (which is another of the many fucked up things about street harassment).

    It’s almost worse when harassers are polite about their harassment, because it makes any anger or high emotions on your part look uncalled for. But just because someone says “please” doesn’t mean they’re not being inappropriate.

    I think there’s a problem with telling someone who’s been harassed what they “should” do i.e: you SHOULD take a picture of them or you SHOULD get their badge number. We all know that these situations can be really confusing and you usually just want to get out of them as quickly as possible, but know that what this officer did was definitely wrong and if it happened again and you felt comfortable, you definitely COULD get his badge number or car number and report him. You would be completely right to do so.

  4. When he asked if it was ok for him to tell you that you were gorgeous, you COULD have politely told him “no”, and reminded him that he he was currently working.

  5. Answering ANY questions (even appropriate ones) from a police officer is always optional unless that officer is legally detaining you. In order to detain you, the officer must have some kind of cause.

    You can always ask, “Officer, am I being detained or am I free to go?”

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