It is now close to 3:30 AM and I am now home, after being thrown into a drunk tank with a pot peddler named Jacob. I feel utterly debased and completely humiliated. There are horrible red rings around my wrists that still sting. This was, of course, the horrid cut of handcuffs, bound as tight as possible by two cocky members of the SFPD who needed to fill a quota and who, for whatever reason, singled me out. A white guy in the Haight.
Now I had never been arrested before any of this. And I now know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I cannot run for political office if I wanted to. Because I am now, even with a misdemeanor on my record, an abject criminal. So sayeth the smug sons of bitches (they being Officer Lamela and Officer Vyu, according to this rinky-dink report they handed me) who decided to arrest me tonight for the most abject of charges. The crumpled report I have in my pocket indicates that I violated 647(f)P.C. RWS. Which I presume is California Penal Code 647(f), which states:
Who is found in any public place under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, controlled substance, toluene, or any combination of any intoxicating liquor, drug, controlled substance, or toluene, in a condition that he or she is unable to exercise care for his or her own safety or the safety of others, or by reason of his or her being under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, controlled substance, toluene, or any combination of any intoxicating liquor, drug, or toluene, interferes with or obstructs or prevents the free use of any street, sidewalk, or other public way.
But here’s the thing. While I was, at the time of arrest, working on a second screwdriver, I wasn’t drunk. Nor did these two police officers even bother to test me with a breathalyzer.
I wish I could tell you that I handled it well. But I didn’t.
I wish I could tell you that I rose to the occasion. I wish I could tell you that I didn’t rip up toilet paper in the cell they through me in into little pieces, begging for the time to go by, while Jacob snored into next week. But I didn’t.
Here’s what happened:
Tonight, while mixing audio for the next podcast, I made an unfortunate decision. I decided to smoke again. Never mind that I had quit. Never mind that I promised myself that I wouldn’t smoke again. I went outside for a smoke break. As it turned out, this was perhaps the worst mistake I could have made.
As I was smoking, a light from a police car in the street shined on me. As I put my cigarette out and was prepared to dispose of it, one of the officers cried, “Hey!”
I answered, “Is there a problem, officer?”
Because the light from the black-and-white was shining into my face, I couldn’t see the officer particularly well. And one of the officers, apparently the guy who had shouted “Hey,” came up to me and cited me for littering. I told the officer that I was in the process of disposing of the cigarette butt, which I truthfully was. But this wasn’t quick enough for him. He put his cuffs on me.
Perhaps it wasn’t a wise idea to respond, “What the fuck is the problem?” But understand that when a police officer puts his cuffs painfullly around your wrists without citing you, tact isn’t exactly the thing that comes to mind. I was bemused and enraged more than anything else. And while the f-bomb isn’t exactly an inroads to diplomacy, I happen to know that even a misdemeanor is accorded the Miranda rights. But I didn’t get any of this, nor was I able to ascertain a specific code section that I had violated. And I certainly didn’t get an answer from them for what I was charged for.
The two cops pushed me to a car and manacled my ass, as if I was the local heroin dealer or some PCP addict. I asked them repeatedly what I was charged for. They claimed littering. But the report, as I have specified above, states otherwise.
It all happened extraordinarily fast. They took all the contents of my pockets, including my wallet and my keys. These two cops pushed me into the back of the car and, even while they were driving me to the local hold tank, they still wouldn’t answer what specific charges I was cited with — despite repeated requests on my part.
“Can you give me with a specific code charge that I’m cited with?” I asked, as the manacles bit into my flesh.
The two cops remained silent. They mentioned “littering” and “drunk and disorderly.” But even if I was drunk (which I was not), they completely failed to tell me exactly how I was disrupting the public. After all, I was alone. And while smoking the stupid cigarette, they didn’t tell me how I was disrupting other people. (There was nobody nearby.)
I was then handcuffed to a bench in the small confines in Golden Gate Park. Another police officer asked me my phone number. I asked him why he needed to know it. He told me that if I was a “good person,” I would give it to him without question. Understand that I was not being difficult. I just wanted to know why they needed such private information. I was, of course, aware of the Fourth Amendment. But apparently, I was a threat.
In any event, I gave my digits to the dude. But this essentially meant nothing. And I was still denied a phone call, much less a reason for why I had been arrested.
So I was cuffed to a waiting area. And I met Jacob, a pot peddler who told me that he was in for D&D. But he was honest enough to tell me that there was, in fact, a justifiable reason why the cops nabbed him.
Before I knew it, I was thrown into a horrid cell, in which I quickly grew familiar with the environs. A stainless steel toilet, some very thick walls with cracks in them, a sink that doubled as a source of water. And Jacob, whom I placated and promised that I would recognize him if he was dealing dope in front of Amoeba Records, inter alia.
Well, Jacob fell fast asleep. He was clearly drunker than me. And I was left in this cell reciting Milton and Shakespeare to keep me sane, wondering if anyone would let me out. I had talked with Jacob and he intimated to me that a cop would come after about four hours of this nonsense. And then he zoned out And I was left in the holding tank contemplating every prison film I had ever seen.
I began to panic. I looked through the mesh and saw nobody. It was clear to me that nobody was on duty.
Of course, being quite cognizant of where I was, I began to rip toilet paper. I recited all the poems that I knew. The prospect of falling asleep on the stolid concrete simply wasn’t and option.
Three and a half hours later, seeing nobody and being unable to sleep with Jacob’s snoring, I came up with the crazed idea of rapping on the mesh. To my great surprise, a deputy came over. I told him that I hoped to go home, where I could actually sleep. Amazingly, he understood. He told me that he was not the guy who arrested me, which suggested to me that the two officers who had thrown me into the drunk tank had been perhaps a tad mistaken and that this was business as usual. I was able to sign for my shit and collect all my possessions. And I played it absolutely safe to ensure that I would get the hell out of there. The deputy pointed me to Haight Street, but I knew where it was.
And I walked home, sobbing like a girl and feeling utterly horrible and wanting some kind of retribution for my perspicacious fate.
And now here I am home, fueled by some litigious retribution and fired up by utter enmity of the officers who didn’t bother to figure things out. I don’t know exactly what to do, but rest assured that vengeance will, in some small sense, be mine.
I still remain quite stunned by what happened, but if anyone has any ideas, please shoot them my way.
© 2006, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.