Police Encounter Of 2011-03-10

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This is the account of how the police violated my rights on 2011-03-10 approximately between 8 and 9 o'clock. This account was freshly written three to four hours later, as precisely and with as much detail as human memory serves.

I was turning from PCH to Malibu Canyon approximately 8-9pm, traveling from Google's office in Santa Monica to my residence. I was in the left driving lane, signaled a lane change, changed lanes, straightened, signaled again, changed to the right-turn lane, straightened, and turned; I distinctly did not skip lanes. A patrol car quickly turned in the same direction behind me directly into the left lane, skipping the right lane, and he would soon accuse me of skipping a lane before turning. I drive this route each day to commute to work, and at this intersection I habitually (not erratically) hesitate for cars to pass me before the road merges into a single lane to avoid having an impatient car behind me for the next six miles through the canyon to Mulholland Highway. This evening, I accelerated slowly to perhaps 30 mph in the right lane, intending for the officer in the left lane to pass before the lanes merged after the stop light for Civic Center Way, but he would not pass. He slowed down with clear intent to stay behind me. I slowed, then turned right at the first stop light. He turned his blue and red lights on. I completed the turn and parked on the shoulder. Immediately I rolled down the windows, turned off the car (leaving it in accessory-mode), engaged the parking brake, and produced my wallet.

A male officer approached my car and uttered a polite greeting. I answered "Hello, sir.". He queried, "Are you lost?". I answered "No, sir.". He queried, "You were driving erratically. You turned right from the number one lane." I remained silent, not wishing to confirm or deny, and not understanding his jargon, "the number one lane". "Why did you turn here?". I answered, "I saw you, and I'm about to go into the canyon, and no offense but I didn't want you behind me the whole way.". He queried, "Have you been drinking tonight?". I answered, "No sir.". "Can I see your licence?". I extracted my license from my wallet which I already had in hand, and presented it to him. I queried, "Registration also?". He responded, "No.". He studied my license, then asked "Do you still live on Hillcrest?". "No. I moved recently, and I filed a change of address form." (meaning the DMV's form from their web site). He said "Please wait here." and walked back to the patrol car. I waited silently.

Apparently more officers had arrived. Soon I would find out that the officers consisted of two men and a woman, riding in two patrol cars. There were no other witnesses. While waiting, I heard voices but could not distinguish their words. I heard at least one woman's voice besides the male officer who had just interviewed me.

The woman approached my car. She queried, "We got a call from someone who said you were driving drunk. Have you been drinking or just driving like an ass?". I answered, "I'm sorry, I can't answer that question. I won't incriminate myself." She queried, "Have you been drinking tonight?" "No." "Not at all?" "No." "Nothing all night?" "No." She opened the door. She said "Put your hands on the steering wheel. Is your car off? If you get out, is your car going to roll away?" (seeming to be a reference to my manual transmission). I answered, "No, but the key is in the ignition.". She said "That's fine. Take your seatbelt off and step out please.". I answered, "Yes ma'am. Can I take off my badge for work first? I just don't want to lose it.". "What sort of badge is it?" I leaned to the side to present it, and she answered, "Yes, sure.". I did, keeping my hand in view, and left it in the passenger's seat.

She directed me with standard procedure to the right side of the closest patrol car and said "Put your hands on the car." (meaning the hood of the car). I obeyed. "Spread your legs apart. Farther." I obeyed. She asked "Is there anything sharp on you that might cut me?" "No." She proceeded to dig in my pockets. It became clear she was going far beyond a frisk when she started pulling things out of my pockets. I did not resist, but objected politely "I don't want to be searched. I do not consent to search. Please stop.". She said "I will decide when to stop." and she continued to search me without consent. I did not resist. She pulled out my disassembled cell phone, coins, and chap-stick, which was all I had, and set it all on the hood of the patrol car. I sighed indicating the disassembled phone and said "I dropped that in the toilet today." One of the men chuckled politely. Then she dug thoroughly in all my pockets again and tugged on my belt. She asked "Where do you work?" "Google." The men were standing a few feet behind me. One asked "Where'd you say?". I answered more clearly and turned my head so he could hear me, but did not raise my voice. "Google." "Huh, aren't they in San Francisco?" I said casually, "They have a local office." He nodded and smiled. She opened the back door of the patrol car and commanded me to get in. I did not resist, but before obeying I queried "Am I free to go?". She answered, "No. You're not under arrest but you're not free to go. I will decide when you are free to go. Get in the car." I did. "Put your hands in front of you." (She indicated the cage for the back seat.)

She proceeded to interrogate me with escalation and provocation over approximately 30 minutes. She interrogated briefly, then closed the door and made me wait many minutes while she and the men laughed and chatted. The car doors and windows were closed, so I could not understand their speech. Then she opened the front door and interrogated me further through the cage. Then she went back to laughing and chatting. Then she opened the back door again and interrogated me further, then made me wait. This went on for about five iterations. Her various interrogation tactics included (in no particular order):

  • "This would be easier if you weren't such an ass." I did not respond to this.
  • "Have you been drinking or taking drugs?" "No." "Even prescription drugs?" "No."
  • "Why did we get a call saying you were driving drunk?" "I can't answer that."
  • "If we got a call, you must have done something. What was it?" I did not respond to this strange logic.
  • She commanded "Look at me." and shown a flashlight in my eyes and held a card next to my head with diagrams of eye pupils.
  • She commanded, "When I say to, not yet, close your eyes. Then lean your head back, and count to thirty. When you finish, open your eyes." I asked "Count seconds or just count?" "Yes, seconds. (pause) Start." I obeyed while she examined her watch carefully. Then she asked, "How did you count?". I answered "One one thousand, two one thousand, etc."
  • "I could take you to the station now for a DUI and drug test. You should cooperate better." (long pause) "I don't know quite what to say." "Yes ma'am would be a good start." "Yes ma'am."
  • "Have you had taken any prescription drugs?" (again) "No."
  • "So why were you driving like an ass?" I answered "I drive safely. I leave plenty of stopping distance, and do what must be done to remain safe."
  • Several times I responded with polite phrases such as "I recognise your authority." and "I understand you are doing your job." to provocative statements.

About half way through the interrogation, she searched my car without consent. She first shown a flashlight in all the windows very carefully. Then she leaned in through the open passenger's side window for many minutes. This was not simply reaching in to move something aside; rather, her entire abdomen was in the car. Then she went to the open driver's side window briefly, and returned to the passenger side. When I returned, there was clear evidence that she searched my car without consent, even though I earlier stated explicitly that I do not consent to search. Every zipper on my backpack was unzipped and every pocket showed signs of search, being left wide open on the seat instead of on the floor where I'd left it. My keys were not in the ignition where I'd left them, but on the passenger seat. Apparently she searched my glove box also, having retrieved the keys from the ignition while visiting the driver's side. I keep this locked at all times, and when she went to the driver's side she was apparently fetching my keys from the ignition.

Finally she opened the door one last time and said, "Get your things and go. And drive (extreme emphasis) safely." She did not issue any citation nor arrest me.

In summary, the female officer searched my person without consent and in the face of objection. Further, she searched my car and my backpack without consent, after prior objection, and while I could not object further being contained within the patrol car. She also detained me without arresting me when I clearly stated I wished to leave. I did not resist nor disobey any of her commands.