Imagine that you’re at a convenience store picking up some snacks for your movie, and while you’re there, someone starts acting weird. Not Peewee Herman weird, not Britney Spears weird, not even Joaquin Phoenix weird. We’re talking about flat-out Joan of Arc weirdness: talking to god and accusing people of witchcraft. Basically, off the end of the Hicky-Doblov weirdness scale (don’t bother looking up the Hicky-Doblov weirdness scale, I just made it up).
The police have been called but they haven’t arrived yet. It turns out you’ve had some experience working with people with mental disorders, so you start asking the disturbed individual questions. Sure enough, it turns out they’ve got bipolar disorder, but they’ve stopped taking their meds. You succeed in getting the person to calm down and getting them out of the convenience store, much to the relief of the witches, I mean attendants, inside. When the police arrive, the disturbed individual is relatively stable. As the police approach, you try to explain to them what you’ve discovered about the person’s condition, but they are very aggressive and very alpha: they ignore you, and the subject begins to become frightened. You are the only friendly face the subject sees, and so she reaches out to you. The police, on the other hand, want you to go away, so they “walk you back.” Then you try to suggest that they attempt to procure a phone number from the subject and… the next thing you know, you’re wearing handcuffs and you’re in the back of a squad car, guilty of obstructing justice.
This is exactly what happened to my sister on the night of Saturday, September 29th.
UPDATE OCTOBER 5 2012: the formal charge Emma was ticketed with is “Obstructing an officer.” There is obviously some room for interpretation around the terms, but I still fail to see how her actions fall under the category of “gross misdemeanor” or “intentionally hindering or delaying” an officer. She was not uncooperative, nor did she withhold information, and neither did she attempt to prevent the officer from acting. Her mistake seems to have been one of overcommunication, but I fail to see how that can reasonably be interpreted pursuant to RCW 9A.76.020.
Emma had a telephone conversation with the arresting officer the following day. In Emma’s words, “All she said to me the next day is that I need to learn to do as I’ve been told.” Nice.
This is Emma’s description of the event, from the blog post that she has since deleted along with her entire Facebook profile:
I go to the gas station to get garbage to eat. Its my favorite attendant…but there’s this cute black girl, well dressed, probably 28….she’s obviously got a mental health issue…she’s walking around talking about God and pointing at the girl behind the counter, scaring her and calling her a witch….So my friend behind the counter is on the phone calling the police…scared…I turn to the girl…what’s her name? She writes it down, she won’t say it out loud… Natasha…so I get Natasha to walk outside and say…listen…lets walk, I think the police are coming…I want to understand. Do you have mental health issues? She said yes. She opens her mouth. She starts talking. She is bipolar.Do you take medications? She said she has been off them.
I said, Ok, Natasha, everything is fine and you are going to be ok but you are off your medications and you need help right now…she nodded and was calmed down. AND THEN THE POLICE PULL UP…. I introduce myself, my name’s Emma, I work for AMR…. We have a 20?s something female, bipolar, off her medications.
“Okay ma’am please stand back.” So I stood back…and they tried to talk to the girl but the girl kept reaching for me. I tried to say something but this girl cop was like…”You’re just making things worse ma’am, please stand back.”
And the poor girl was OK and talking to them but then again said, “MY friend…and reached for me” And all I did was walk toward her to suggest maybe we should see if we could find a phone number or get number from her, maybe she has family nearby….but I didn’t even get the words out and the woman cop PUSHED ME and said, ma’am you aren’t helping things… and I was like, I understand but I….and she was all MA’AM’ and kept walking me down and she was this cute little petite kind of pudgy thing….and she was ALPHA….I know, I get it, I’m not debating. I know and accept you are alpha, I am not trying to threaten that.
And I tried to talk and BAM, hand was going behind my back, I was getting put up against the wall, and UNDER ARREST….HAHAHAHA…I was like…’Wait? really? this is happening?’ And I laughed …I can’t help it I was baffled, I didn’t understand, that’s what I do when I’m uncomfortable, I laugh…she said, “You think this is funny?”….and I said…well…yeah, I guess I just can’t believe it’s actually happening. and she was all “you think obstructing justice is funny?” and I was like…this is obstructing justice? WHAT? I’m so confused…what world have I lived in during the last many many years. I thought obstructing justice was harboring a fugitive or lying to protect someone….good lord.
So she took me to the back of the cop car…still had the phone in my pocket and I call a few people, just voice mails….it was so hard to get my phone out of my pocket with my hands in my handcuffs….and I watched as engine seven pulled up and I wanted to shout to them, HEY GUYS!!! But they couldn’t hear me. Then AMR pulled up…HEY KEN!!!! HEYYY!!!! Nothing. Hahahaha, it was a horrible moment.
The full post can be found here. UPDATE: my sisters appears to have deleted this post.
I understand how protocol is enacted to protect the lives of officers and bystanders alike. I also understand that the police can’t take anything at face value, including the pedigree, qualifications, or advice of anyone who isn’t a credentialed uniform. But to arrest a non-hostile bystander who has the gall to offer advice (aka, “obstruction of justice“)? Very productive. Way to go, Everett Police Department! You’re really living up to the mission statement on your home page:
The Everett Police Department is a premier law enforcement agency in Washington State. Everett Police Department personnel develop relationships with City residents to address public safety issues and concerns.
Everett Police officers and staff represent diverse backgrounds and pride themselves on protecting, serving, and working with Everett residents, business owners and organizations.
I’ve done enough research to know that the arresting officer was involved in an event where she and her partner spent three hours “talking down” a domestic violence case who was trying to use a knife to provoke them into shooting him. That doesn’t sound like someone who would apply authority or force needlessly. I can only wonder what the officer was thinking when this all went down. Whatever it was… well, it has to rank high on the Hicky-Doblov scale, it just has to.