A little over two hours ago, I was walking through the Stockton tunnel hurrying to grab a bite to eat and catch a movie at the Century theater, when a police car pulls up next to me. The officer in the car tells me to stop and come towards the car. The officer steps out of the car and immediately grabs my wrist. I ask him what is going on and he asks me if I was in a fight. I show him my hands and ask him if they look like they have been in a fight.
His partner comes over grabs my hand and puts it behind my back and puts me in handcuffs. Nobody explained to me what was going on. The officer who put the handcuffs asks me if I have any weapons on me, I tell him about the knife in my right pocket. He takes the knife out and starts searching through all my pockets. The officer takes out my iPhone and even reads my message notifications. I politely ask him not to read my messages and the officer tells me he has not accessed my phone or pressed any buttons and was just reading what was in plain view. The officer searching me repeatedly asks me if I had ever been arrested, to which I answered “no.” My calmness must have confused the officers and one of them even asked the officer searching me why I was so calm. After going through all my pockets, the officer tells me to sit down on the ground. When the first officer who grabbed me saw the knife, he told me “not so innocent now.”
At this point in time, I realized why getting detained was so intimidating and humiliating. Here I was sitting on the concrete in handcuffs, with absolutely no idea what was going on and every time I try to ask the officer, he tells me that I am a liar and that I know what happened. The officers repeatedly affirm to each other that I am guilty. As they walk me across the street officer holding on to me yells out that even though he would like me to get hit by a car, he had to watch out for them. I see an Indian girl across the street standing with the police, she sees me and afterwards, the police kind of self congratulate themselves and once again tell me I am guilty. “Did I just got id’ed by a witness?” I thought to myself.
The officer that cuffed me puts me in the back of a squad car and drives off. We park at an intersection for a bit as he waits for commands and starts looking me up on his computer. From scraps of conversations I had overheard I gathered that there had been assault with a metal pipe near my apartment, however I was not sure. I once again ask the officer what is going on, and he told me that I was going to be booked and going to prison and that I should shut up not stop asking stupid questions. I sighed and leaned back in my seat. I thought about reaching for my phone that they had put back in my pocket to text Stefan my roommate, but I decided to just wait it out.
I get driven to the Chinatown police station, where I am researched, stripped of my possessions and cuffed to a bench. Both of my hands are still cuffed behind my back at this point and I see the officer who put me in cuffs really happy and joking with his fellow officers. I hear one of the officers ask if they should just single cuff me, but the officer who put me in cuffs tells him no and to leave me be. More waiting in the cold room, I am starting to feel the effects of the adrenaline rush. My mouth is dry and I am starting to shiver. I hear the officers talking about how my record is clean and the detaining officer replies “only in San Francisco” as if he was sure that I have been arrested in another city. I wait some more and the detaining officer comes out of the back room and asks me for my phone number and address. This time the officer seems nicer, they must have figured out from my college ids and clean record that I was probably not their guy. The officer even agrees to get me a glass of water and single cuff me to the bench. Things were finally looking up.
After some more waiting, the inspector comes out and tells me to finish my water and that he was going to interview me. I get re-cuffed and led to the interview room, which surprisingly was not like the cold interrogation rooms I had read about. When I ask the inspector if I can get a lawyer, he tells me that he just wants my side of the story and that it is in my best interest to answer his questions. Before he starts interrogating me, the inspector reads me my Miranda rights and against nagging doubts, I go along with the first question. The inspector asks me if I knew anything about the assault that took place on Grant and I respond that I do not know anything about that incident. He proceeds to tell me not to lie and that a witness had seen me walk away from the scene and dump a metal pipe. The inspector asks me what I was doing with a metal pipe. I roll my eyes at the loaded question and tell him “I want a lawyer.” The interview ends immediately and I get taken back out to the waiting room and single cuffed to the bench again.
A little more waiting later, the officer who put cuffs on me walks out and tells me “it’s my lucky day” and I am free to go. I tell him I am not sure how lucky I am since all I wanted to do tonight was watch a movie and he tells me things could have been worse. When I ask the officer what happened, he answers that the witness did not end up seeing the whole attack after all and that she had only caught the end of it. The officer warns me about the knife and how it is close to the 3.5″ limit and that I should probably carry something smaller. He walks me out of the station and explains to me that I had just been detained, not arrested, and that they always treat people they detain in this way. There were no apologies and the officer even got defensive when I asked him for his card. Before waving me off, the officer told me that this did not mean I was not guilty and just like that the hour long ordeal was over.
After this experience, I can really understand how getting picked up multiple times for nothing could really get someone to hate the police. Immediately when they put the cuffs on, you feel like a criminal, then all the bravado talk between the officers gets you intimidated and makes you feel even more guilty. I am really glad I read all those Quora posts about what to do when arrested and as a result was able to keep calm. I kind of knew what to expect when they put the cuffs on me, recognized the tricks during the interrogation and after the first question asked for a lawyer.
A note to my friends, when detained or arrested, the police are NEVER on your side, they are not your friends and are never trying to just help you out. When questioned about anything other than your contact information, just shut the fuck up, ask for your lawyer and wait for things to get sorted out.
Most importantly, know your rights.
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