February 27, 2006

The policeman is your friend.

Maybe sometimes, but probably not if you want to make a complaint.

In south Florida, a police watchdog group sent a person into 38 police stations in Dade and Broward counties with a simple task: to test what would happen when someone asks for a complaint form. At all but three stations, the tester found out that the department didn't have a complaint form and would have to make the complaint in person. At some of the stations, police tried to intimidate the tester. More than once, the tester was told to leave.

Unknown to police, all of their interactions with the tester were filmed and recorded. And some of that video was aired on WFOR TV, the CBS affiliate in the Miami area.

Cop behaving badly

A friendly Lauderhill officer points innocently at his sidearm.

At the Lauderhill police department, for example, the tester was asked for ID, accused of being on medication, and then asked to leave. The officer followed the tester out of the building onto the sidewalk, acting beligerently. At one point the officer put his hand on his gun and said 'Take one step forward and we'll see what happens.'

Two cops behaving just as badly

Personable Sea Ranch Lakes cops assist members of the public.

At the Sea Ranch Lakes PD, the tester was told that his showing up at the station at 8 pm to ask for a complaint form was 'suspicious,' and the if the tester 'wanted to play hardball, we'll play hardball.' The tester was then told to 'shut up' and, when the tester asked for his driver's license back so he could leave, the tester was threatened with a ticket.

Strangely, the WFOR report frames the problem more as one of the lack of complaint forms, than of a problem of intimidation and threatening police behavior — despite the teaser for the story. The assumption seems to be that if complaint forms existed, police would behave better. And the report ignores another aspect of the story: What would have happened had the tester not been white? Given how badly a white tester was treated at some of the stations, imagine what would have happened if a person of color had been the one asking for a complaint form.

You can watch all of WFOR's story here [streaming video].

Via Boing Boing.

Posted by Magpie at February 27, 2006 09:27 PM | Law/Justice | Technorati links |

I almost wish they hadn't aired it right away. If anyone tries to do the same in any of the other counties, they no longer have the element of surprise...

Posted by: Capt. Jean-Luc Pikachu at February 28, 2006 08:02 AM