Ty was angrier about this, even, than I was. "Why is it," she demanded a few steps down the path, stomping her feet and swinging her little arms as she said it, "that the police won't ever believe you're my Grandpa?" (Our earlier run in had clearly made an impression, though she hadn't mentioned it in ages.) "Why do you think it is?," I asked, hoping to fend her off with the Socratic method. She paused, then said sheepishly, "Because you're white?" I grinned at her and said, "That's part of it, for sure. But we don't care about that, do we?" "No," she said sternly as we walked across the bridge spanning Boggy Creek just south of 12th Street, "but the police should leave you alone. It's not right that they want to arrest you for being my Grandpa." More prescient words were never spoken.Nine squads to handle an old man and a five-year-old? Really?
Just as Ty uttered those words, I made her hold my hand so we could trot across 12th Street amidst the sporadic, Friday night traffic, waiting for a police car to pass before heading across just west of the railroad tracks. Literally my intentions were - the moment we made it safely across the street - to resume our conversation to explain to Ty that nobody wanted to arrest me for being her Grandpa, that that wasn't against the law, and that the deputy had only stopped us to make sure Ty was safe. But we never got a chance to have that conversation.
As soon as we crossed the street, just two blocks from my house as the crow flies, the police car that just passed us hit its lights and wheeled around, with five others appearing almost immediately, all with lights flashing. The officers got out with tasers drawn demanding I raise my hands and step away from the child. I complied, and they roughly cuffed me, jerking my arms up behind me needlessly. Meanwhile, Ty edged up the hill away from the officers, crying. One of them called out in a comforting tone that they weren't there to hurt her, but another officer blew up any good will that might have garnered by brusquely snatching her up and scuttling her off to the back seat of one of the police cars. (By this time more cars had joined them; they maxxed out at 9 or 10 police vehicles.)
After the cuffs were off, I said nothing to the APD cops as I carried the child away toward home. But I did pause when I passed the deputy constable - who still could barely look me in the eye - to say aloud to her, "You knew better. This is on you."
Ty was understandably shaken by the incident, and as we walked home she told me all about her interactions with the officers and peppered me with questions about why this, that, everything happened. She said she tried to be brave because she knew I'd get into trouble if the police didn't believe her (she was right about that!) and she was especially scared when she thought they weren't going to accept her word for it. Poor kid.
As we turned onto the last block home, two of the police cars that had detained us passed by and Ty visibly winced with fear, lunging toward me and wrapping her arms around my leg. I petted and tried to comfort her, but she was pretty disturbed and confused by the whole episode. Luckily, it also left her exhausted so she was out like a light soon after we got home, half an hour past her bedtime. This morning she stated bluntly that she had decided not to think about it - a practice my wife encourages when bad things happen - and it seems to be working. She's her normal happy self, though at the park this afternoon she wanted to pretend we were hiding from kidnappers. But I hated for a five-year old to be subjected to such an experience. I'd like her to view police as people she can trust instead of threats to her and her family, but it's possible I live in the wrong neighborhood for that.
This whole thing is indicative of the "us-vs.-them" military mentality of too damn many police departments nowadays. Officers, when it comes down to it...we, the law-abiding public, are the "us." In our eyes, you are fast becoming the "them." And if...no, when the crap really hits the fan, you are going to need us a lot more than we're going to need you.
You might wish to contemplate that.