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Police Harassment and Skateboarding

How to Deal with Police Harassment

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Getty Images / Michael Wong

How to Deal with Police Harassment

Getty Images / Michael Wong
Skaters and police just don't seem to get along. It's unfortunate, especially since the police are the ones with all the authority. And a lot of them expect you to respect that authority, no matter how they are acting.

So what should you do when you feel you are being harassed by the police? How should you react? And what should a skater or skater's parents do if they feel like the police have overstepped their bounds?

Police and Skaters - How to Act and React

Whether you did something wrong or not, it's important that you stay respectful. I know that will be hard. But the trick is, whether you did something wrong or not, if you are rude to the cop then they can use that against you. Here are some things to try and do:
  • Stay calm - freaking out can give the cop an excuse to treat you even worse
  • Be polite - even if they aren't!
  • Don't be sarcastic - cops report everything that you say to them, and they'll use things you said against them. Even if it was said sarcastically
  • Do NOT try and get away - this is tempting, but if you run or try and walk away at all, the police have the right to try and restrain you. And that means that they can do a LOT to hurt and harass you. Don't give them that opportunity.
  • Cooperate until the contact with the cop is over - you don't have to be honestly OK with what's going on, you just have to put up with it for that moment.
I know that none of this sounds like fun, and that your pride and anger will make it hard to do any of these things, but they are important. I know it's not fair, but that's how these things work. It's important to swallow your pride and go along with them, at least until they leave. In researching this article, I spoke with a woman I know who works at a police station, and she said, "They can't let you win." I think that really explains a lot of what's going on when a cop gets in your face. It becomes a battle, and even if you aren't in the wrong, the cop can't let you win. Be the bigger person, swallow your pride, and go along with it. At least for right then.

But make sure you remember everything that happens! Once the contact is over, write down what you remember from the encounter, especially if you were being wrongly harassed.

How do you Report a Bad Cop?

If you feel that you were treated wrongly, you actually CAN do something about it! Call up the local police station and say, "I have an officer complaint." You can have your parents help with this if you are nervous. If you live in a smaller town, you will probably talk to the sergeant. If you are in a bigger city, they might have you talk directly to internal affairs.

Whoever you end up talking to, explain your story to them. They should take it very seriously. If you don't know the officer's name, then just tell them the date, time and location where it happened. When a cop has a contact like this, they are supposed to report it back to the station so they should have a log of it.

Sometimes you might feel like they aren't taking your story very seriously. This feels horrible, but it can happen. You have every right to talk to someone higher up. Here's how the ranking works for police, from lowest to highest:

  • Officer
  • Sergeant
  • Lieutenant
  • Deputy Chief
  • Chief
If you don't feel like you are getting help from one level, ask to go to the next, or just say "Who's your boss? I would like to talk with that person, please."

You should get some help within the department, but if you feel like the Chief isn't helping you, then you will need to call up the City Manager's Office, or go to the State Police. But hopefully you won't have to go that far!

Once you have explained your story, you have every right to ask what they are going to do. Just ask, "Where's this going to go?" You can even ask to be notified of how the situation works out.

I wish I didn't have to write this article at all, and that police and skateboarders would just get along everywhere. But unfortunately, we skaters have a bad reputation, and a lot of police assume that if you are on a skateboard, then you must be a punk.

Whatever happens, remember to stay calm and polite, and if you are treated badly, then report it. Don't be afraid. If no one ever reports bad cops, then no one will know that anything bad is going on. Just stay calm, and remember everything that happens. And most of all, don't give them a reason to treat you badly!

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