Keeping ‘Em Honest

Tell Salar what you think about the effectiveness of police at [email protected].

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Where is it? Where did you put it?" the police officers asked me unrelentingly.

They wanted to know where I had thrown my gun, the one they had "seen me with" while they were cruising around the block.

I didn't live in the best of neighborhoods, and this sort of thing occurred rather frequently. It was a case of mistaken identity; they thought I was a fleeing gang member and beat me down in hopes of teaching me a lesson.

It was the end of my senior year in high school. I had just finished taking an Advanced Placement English exam, and I arrived home a bit weary. I logged online to catch Kasparov finish off Deep Blue (IBM's supercomputer) in a man versus machine chess showdown. As soon as the game ended, I ran to my local chess club to give everybody the exciting news.

Just as I was approaching the club, a black car pulled up beside me, and a woman jumped out. She grabbed my collar while her huge guy friend got out of the driver's side. I tried pushing the woman off me to get away, but she held me tight.

I often think of how things would have turned out had I gotten away.

As the big guy neared me, I dropped to the floor-I wasn't going anywhere with these people. My parents had told me the story about getting kidnapped, and if they wanted me, they were going to have to drag me.

The guy started with a series of punches to my head. Every time he laid his fist on my head, I would see black for a split second. I remember thinking that was pretty cool at the time.

Pretty soon, one of my hands was cuffed. The guy moved on to more divisive methods; he grabbed a handful of my hair and was using it to slam my head into the steps of a nearby house. I was using my lingering hand to cover my face from receiving the blows. My knuckles were bloody, and I was in an unmitigated amount of pain. I hoped that the guy would decide I had enough and handcuff my other hand already.

After the guy finished beating me, he and the woman picked me up, slammed me against the hood of their car and searched me thoroughly. They asked me where I was going, why I had refused to cooperate with their demands and where I had put the gun. Hoping that they were police officers and this whole thing was a mix-up, I answered their questions.

Thankfully, they were police officers. Unfortunately, though, mix-ups have a complicated way of being dealt with in police stations. After a few rounds of questioning, I think they realized just how bad they had screwed up. "No, I don't have a police record ... No, I don't have any tattoos ... I am a senior in high school ... Yes. In fact, I founded the chess team at my school. We are the city champions ... Next year? I will attend the University of Chicago ... No, not University of Illinois at Chicago."

The lieutenant took the two officers outside and yelled "Did you hear that? He's the fucking captain of the chess team!"

Realizing they had committed a serious mistake, they said to me that I had committed a felony: striking police officers. I could have been thrown in jail, but they were going to release me because they thought I was "a good kid" who wasn't going to make this mistake again.

The pain I went through on the street that night was nothing compared to what ensued. My story received quite a bit of media attention in the days that followed. When the police were questioned about the incident, they claimed that I was in the police station that night but that there was no record on file. They claimed that I was arrested by two uniformed police officers in a marked squad car. The sirens were screaming while they yelled "Stop! Police!" into the microphone.

Nobody denies that the job of a police officer is a difficult one. In preserving the law, mistakes will take place; people understand this. Some mistakes, however, are more critical.

It is unfortunate that there is such a strong effort by police to cover up all their mistakes. In doing so, they allow for dishonest police officers to abuse their powers.

We trust the police with upholding the law-we can only wish that they don't bend the rules themselves.


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