Some of you that followed the "Open Carry in Philadelphia" thread probably watched me squirm as I defended the officer in that case. At least one person suggested we all just bend over and let LEO do what they wish and we just take it (DoubleDeuce implied this). Anyway, for anyone mistaken that I would do such a thing, here is an e-mail complaint I just sent to a local Department after I was stopped last night.
I'm sure I'll get flamed by the pro-LEO among us. I'm sure I'll hear that I should have just answered his question and I might not even have gotten the ticket. And in reply, I say FUCK THAT BULLSHIT. If you fully read my email and consider the manner in which the stop was conducted, you'll understand why I chose my course.
Dear Chief ------:
I am writing to you to complain about the treatment I received by two members of your Department. Last night, a traffic stop was effectuated upon my vehicle in the Township of ------. I was traveling with my 5 year old son, and his mother. The officer in question turned on his emergency lights and I immediately pulled-over safely to the shoulder of the road. I remained in my seat belt, turned on the interior lights (as is my custom at night for my and the officer's safety) and placed my hands on the steering wheel until the officer's arrival at the passenger side door. He immediately requested my license, insurance and registration, which I immediately produced.
The officer's very next statement was a question: "Where are you coming from?" While I am accustomed to some banter beyond "name rank and serial number" from an officer during a traffic stop, being abruptly and immediately questioned about the origin of my trip (without explanation) was alarming to me. Was there a robbery last evening where the description of the get-away-vehicle matched that of the one I was operating?
I ask the foregoing only half-facetiously, as this is the EXACT explanation that was offered to me by your Supervisor. No robbery? No get-a-way vehicle matching the description of mine, with a 5 year old child as the passenger? Well then, "where are you coming from" is not germane to my traffic stop and would constitute strictly voluntary information on my part.
I POLITELY informed the officer that the origin of my trip was not relevant to the traffic stop. He immediately informed me that I was "hindering his investigation". In other words, your officer alleged or at the very least implied that I was committing a crime by not answering his question. I immediately requested his Supervisor and the officer complied.
Your Supervisor arrived and ordered me to exist the my vehicle and stands with him to the front of my vehicle. We discussed the officer's request and I repeated that I did not believe the origin of my trip was lawfully required information. I will also add that neither of your officer's had yet informed me exactly WHY I was being stopped and detained, but I assumed (correctly) that it was an equipment violation.
While I cannot and will not state that your Supervisor (or the officer) were "unprofessional" up to that point, your Supervisor wore a constant smirk as he was talking to me and at one point, challenged me more than once by asking, "are you a lawyer?" where he eventually replied to his own question by informing me that he knew the law better than I did. I think at least in this instance, he did not.
In addition, when I informed him that I did not desire to argue with him, and that we were merely going in circles (and to just issue the ticket or otherwise charge me, which I did POLITELY), he abruptly walked away and told the officer to "hammer this guy".
I need not remind you that the moment an officer stops a vehicle, that person is technically under arrest. I am not free to happily drive away. I am being detained. Beyond providing the required documents and perhaps confirming my name and address, I am not under any legal obligation to answer questions. Period.
To be clear, it was not my intention to be purposefully obtuse or difficult with your officers. I was not on some crusade to exercise my "rights" during my very next traffic stop. But being abruptly queried about the origin of my trip as the very first question during a traffic stop did not sit well with me. I know such questions are basic procedure. I also know that such questions constitute an "investigation" and if I'm going to voluntarily subject myself to an investigation, the officer ought to do a better job of explaining it and build a better rapport first.
I also know the average motorists has no idea about their rights concerning such an "investigation", but I do. If your officer politely explained why he was stopping me and engaged me in polite conversation, I would have explained exactly from where I was coming, along with my destination - nothing nefarious was occurring last night.
First, unless you can illustrate to me the law that requires me to disclose to an officer the origin and destination of my trip, you have a training issue within your Department. If you cannot provide any such law or requirement, and I do not believe that you can, the express or implied threat that I was breaking the law ("hindering investigation") was inappropriate.
Furthermore, the comment "hammer this guy" was wholly unprofessional, threatening and expressed a clear bias toward me. May I also point out to you how highly inflammatory such a comment is, on the side of the road, at night, with a woman and a 5 year old in the vehicle listening to such a comment.
I want to remind you of the obvious: Your officer's are employed by your Township to uphold the law, including respecting the rights of the citizens of the State. They do not have to agree with those rights, but they are sworn to uphold them. Further, your officers should be required to discharge their duties in a professional manner. It would be bad enough if I alone were subject to this mistreatment, but my 5 year old son was in the vehicle, and could hear everything. 5 year old boys grow up wanting to BECOME police, not learning to mistrust or FEAR them. I won't bother you with the comments of my 5 year-old, but suffice it to say I had to "defend" your officers.
You might read this, speak to your officers and conclude that I'm just being difficult - your Supervisor certainly had that attitude last night. And I'd expect that a good number of LEO would feel the same way. And in reply, I'd remind you that I was polite and non-threatening at all times, and if by exercising my lawful rights constitutes "being difficult", perhaps some LEO need to find new occupations where they are not hindered by those pesky "rights" thankfully afforded us all.
I am sorry that I cannot provide the officer's name at the moment as I do not have the ticket in front of me. My full name follows below and I was stopped some time around 11:00 PM. I thank you in advance for your kind attention to this matter and I look forward to your reply.