July 12, 2008

I resemble a teenage vandal

I just got back from the office, and as I was walking past First Congregational, a cop car pulled up at the curb (from the wrong direction), and two cops got out and stopped me. Again. This was the third time in about a week and a half, and this time I got the actual reason the cops keep stopping me and wanting to search my bag (beyond the ever-vague "you match the description of a suspect").

For the last few weeks, Galesburg has fallen victim to a number of graffitists. They aren't even the good kind, the graffiti artists that (to my eye) enhance the urban landscape; they're just tagging with the initials of their various groups. A couple of them got caught just a couple days ago, but police have been patrolling more for a while now.

And I never connected my being stopped to the string of taggings, but tonight's cop told me that one of the suspects is a white kid with long-for-a-guy brown hair, who carries the spray paint in a sling backpack. My satchel is easily mistaken for a sling, apparently, and I for a teenager. I'm sure my tendency to be walking home at 2:30 in the morning doesn't help, but one of the other times I was stopped (also outside First Congregational—across from the police station, so the message to the vandals might be, avoid the police station) it was in broad daylight.

And although it's irritating and I'll certainly keep complaining about it, I can't even get my knickers all in a Constitutional twist because (well, according to them, but it's plausible) they really do have probable cause to keep searching me. Sigh.

UPDATE: No, they really don't. Further investigating my rights in this (thanks ACLU!) indicate that unless they are specifically detaining me, I can just leave; and in any case they still need a warrant to search my bag, which probably means they'd have to arrest me first. Which they won't do; what are they going to say, "he had long hair and was carrying a bag!"? Well, maybe they'd try. Still, I'm a little tired of being stopped and searched; next time I'm going to force the issue by at least refusing consent on the search.

"The web designers are discovering what the Jews of Mea Shearim have known for decades: just because you all agree to follow one book doesn't ensure compatibility, because the laws are so complex and complicated and convoluted that it's almost impossible to understand them all well enough to avoid traps and landmines, and you're safer just asking for the fruit plate." --Joel Spolsky

Posted by blahedo at 3:06am on 12 Jul 2008
You do look quite young, sir :P Posted by Elvin at 9:16pm on 16 Oct 2008
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